With the new year on its way, comes new expectations and new stories to cover.
As 2021 wraps up Friday, what can we look forward to in the news cycle in 2022?
“2021, in a lot of ways, felt like another lost year,” said John Sellek, of Harbor Strategics Public Affairs.
For nearly two years, COVID has dominated nearly every facet of life and moving forward. That will be the case for at least the start of 2022.
Even if it wanes early in the year, 2022 being a major midterm election year will keep it front of mind.
“The organizing feature for this election, will still be COVID. Whether we are talking about the issue itself or how it was responded to or the tangential effects that are still hitting,” said Sellek, “Like right now the current one is inflation.”
The biggest race of the year will be for the governor’s seat. Governor Gretchen Whitmer looks for re-election, while a number of challengers take aim from the other side.
“She would benefit from the Republicans getting their act together getting behind at least one or two candidates,” said Sellek, “That can sort of rise up and start engaging the governor. She wants that so that she can say, ‘you may not of loved everything I did for a while but here’s what would happen if you put that person in charge.’”
There is still work to be done for current terms while working for their next.
“We can’t let the politics of an election keep us from getting the important work of the people done,” aid Whitmer.
Federal COVID funding still to be spent, infrastructure deals and education reform to create.
“I’m hopeful that we can check a lot of things off in the first two quarters of next year because people of Michigan they aren’t thinking about the next election, they are thinking about the next day, the next month,” said Whitmer.
Michiganders saw bipartisan cooperation at the tail end of this year, most notably the massive economic development deal.
“When the legislature has a seat at the table then it’s better outcome for the state of Michigan,” said Speaker of the House Jason Wentworth, back when the deal was signed, “Just like here when the governor’s at the table and the legislature’s at the table, we’re going to have better outcomes for the people of Michigan.”
“We got all this done in under two months,” said Whitmer, “It shows that we can get a lot of good stuff done in a bipartisan way, and a fast way.”
Will that unity continue? Probably not, says Sellek. The state has new district maps, an election is coming, sides are being taken.
“They’ll be thinking about, ‘Am I going to get primaried? Am I going to have a challenge from a Trump endorsed candidate because I didn’t say or do the right thing or I cooperated too much with Governor Whitmer?” said Sellek, “All those things are going to be factoring into the election.”
Between now and then will be major events that may sway voters. In March, the trial of five men accused of kidnapping Whitmer begins. Could it gain Whitmer sympathy? Or just drum up the dark days of the pandemic?
“That’s one of the scary things that how out of whack our universe has gotten right now,” said Sellek “Something like that just becomes part of the whirl ,the blur of noise.”
In a state that regularly favors incumbents, COVID has changed everything. Putting in danger Whitmer’s second term and the GOP’s hold in the capitol.
“What voters have done consistently, even when every other traditional measure seems to go by the wayside, is punish the people who are in charge at the time,” said Sellek, “And hand the reins over and try with someone else.”
The next year will be dominated by COVID and the elections. With Michigan in the spotlight again, it will seem non-stop.
“If you didn’t like listening to all the political talk in 2021 you probably need to get your Bose noise canceling headphones on as soon as possible,” said Sellek, “Because it’s going to be everywhere.”