Lang, Guzman fight for GOP secretary of state nomination
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Republicans hoping to extend their 24-year reign at the helm of the secretary of state’s office will choose between an academic who co-chaired Donald Trump’s Michigan campaign and an accountant with business and nonprofit experience.
The winner of the nomination at Saturday’s GOP convention in Lansing will advance to face Democrat Jocelyn Benson. Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson is term-limited.
Both Joseph Guzman and Mary Treder Lang, the two remaining candidates after Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot’s withdrawal last week, say their No. 1 priority is ensuring the integrity of elections. They each point to their career backgrounds to bolster why they would be best prepared to make it a focus.
The 58-year-old Lang, of Grosse Pointe Farms near Detroit, said she has been a certified public accountant for more than 30 years and worked in the computer security field for more than 15 years. That experience, she said, would help her fight cyberattacks, protect the personal information of people who vote and renew their driver’s licenses, and ensure “one citizen, one vote.”
Lang, a former state House candidate who is seen as the favorite in the race, was appointed to the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents by Gov. Rick Snyder, a fellow accountant. She has worked in management at various companies and most recently became vice president of major gifts at Vista Maria, a Dearborn Heights-based nonprofit that provides services to abused and neglected girls and young women.
“I’ve been saying all along I feel like I have the modern-day set of skills to not only be the next secretary of state, but also to move us forward in the right direction as a state ... to continue the comeback we’ve worked tremendously hard for, for the last eight years,” Lang said.
Guzman, 57, lives in Okemos near Lansing and was an assistant professor of human resources and labor relations at Michigan State University until recently. He co-chaired Trump’s winning Michigan campaign in 2016 and previously worked at the Pentagon, where he led the biometric management office and had other jobs.
He lags well behind Lang in campaign fundraising but is counting on support from Trump Republicans, tea party enthusiasts and other grassroots activists at the convention, where 2,100 delegates will not only choose the secretary of state nominee, but also nominate candidates for attorney general , state Supreme Court, university boards and the State Board of Education.
“I have a lot to lend to this office, especially with my management experience,” Guzman said, pledging to oppose fee increases, eliminate online user fees and hold the budget flat. He said he wants to offer digital driver’s licenses on smartphones and virtual notaries, and the office should be “very proactive in leading on technology.”
Guzman and Lang both criticized an anti-gerrymandering redistricting initiative set for the November ballot, as well as an early voter registration and voting initiative that also could get a statewide vote. The proposals have been embraced by Benson, a former Wayne State University Law School dean who was endorsed at Democrats’ convention in April. Benson will be officially nominated at the Democratic convention on Sunday.
The Republican nominee will enter the fall campaign at a significant financial disadvantage. Benson, who ran for the office in 2010, had raised more than $1 million as of Aug. 9 and had $837,000 in the bank. Lang had raised $266,000 and had $30,000 left, while Guzman had collected $16,000 and had $2,700 on hand.