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Gov. William Comstock pours a beer on this photograph supplied by Robert Haltiner by means of Alpena County Library Particular Collections Division.

ALPENA — There could also be no interstates working by means of Northeast Michigan, however roads right here run far and quick sufficient to attach the area repeatedly with statewide and nationwide politics.

Our sleepy burghs have given Michigan one governor and we’re related to a second, the latter of whom went on to serve in a presidential administration.

We’ve raised Michigan’s longest-serving legal professional common and a presidential murderer.

And this area, few and deceptively homogenous although its voters could also be, has drawn a number of huge political names to stump in our group halls.

As voters put together to go to the polls in simply over every week, right here’s an inexhaustive listing of a number of the methods Alpena historical past has intersected statewide and nationwide historical past:

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Russell Alger


Though extra straight related to Grand Rapids (the place he met his spouse) and Detroit (the place he moved after the Civil Battle), one-term Michigan governor Russell Alger is related to Northeast Michigan.

Alger, in response to each the Detroit Historic Society and the Nationwide Governors Affiliation, skyrocketed by means of the Union ranks in the course of the Civil Battle, enlisting initially of the conflict as a non-public and ending the conflict as a significant common. After the conflict, he moved to Detroit and led a veterans group that helped safe pensions for Civil Battle troopers.

He additionally acquired into the logging enterprise and reportedly stored a house in Alcona County the place he stayed to supervise his Up North operations.

Alger, a Republican, turned Michigan governor in 1885 and served one time period.

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Frank Kelley, middle, Michigan’s longest-serving legal professional common, smiles on the 2013 unveiling of a plaque honoring him on the Alpena County Courthouse. Kelley was metropolis legal professional in Alpena earlier than being tapped by Gov. John Swainson to be legal professional common.

In 1897, President William McKinley tapped Alger to function his secretary of conflict, a job Alger reportedly botched in his oversight of the Spanish American Battle. Alger resigned from the publish and returned to Michigan, the place, in 1902, then-Gov. Aaron T. Bliss appointed Alger to serve within the U.S. Senate. Alger was nonetheless a senator when he died in 1907.


Have been it not for his Black River residence, Alger nonetheless can be peripherally related to Northeast Michigan by a bullet that pierced the abdomen of a president.

Alger, as a then-former member of McKinley’s cupboard, was certainly among the many mourners who wept in 1901 as McKinley died from a bullet fired by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist who spent a lot of his youth in Alpena (some sources say he was born in Alpena, others Detroit, others in Europe, in response to Brittanica).

What is thought is that, within the late 1800s, he was fired from a manufacturing facility job and have become obsessive about revenue inequality and radical anarchist teachings, together with that of Gaetano Bresci, who had assassinated the king of Italy.

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Leon Czolgosz’s mug shot.

In 1901, Czolgosz caught up with McKinley on the Pan-American Expo in Buffalo, New York, and shot him. McKinley died eight days later in a hospital. Czolgosz died a month later in an electrical chair.


Northeast Michigan’s first positively native son to make it in statewide politics was William Alfred Comstock.

A profitable businessman in actual property, banking, and railroads, Comstock served on the Alpena metropolis council from 1911 to 1912 and because the metropolis’s mayor from 1913 to 1914, in response to the Governors Affiliation.

He first went statewide as a regent on the College of Michigan after which then nationwide on the Democratic Nationwide Committee earlier than turning into governor in 1933. Throughout his temporary, two-year time period, Comstock signed the primary state gross sales tax into regulation.

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Sarah Palin, former vice presidential candidate and former governor of Alaska, campaigns for Donald Trump in Alpena in 2016.

He misplaced his subsequent election however stayed energetic on the state Civil Service Fee, which oversees state authorities workers, and later turn into a Detroit metropolis councilman. He died in 1949.


Frank Kelley got here from a household of affect in Wayne County’s Democratic circles, however he didn’t wish to have his path carved out for him, in response to a 2015 story from Michigan Radio.

That’s why Kelley moved as much as Alpena as a Democrat in a city of Republicans, a spot the place he may make a reputation for himself by himself. He ran a regulation agency and ultimately turned town legal professional, employed by an all-Republican metropolis council.

“Imagine it or not that tolerant act by that group of Republicans to make me metropolis legal professional, I at all times remembered it,” Kelley instructed Leon Cohan in a 2004 interview for the Michigan Political Historic Society. “Years later, once I labored with you within the capital, I at all times remembered you don’t choose a ebook by its cowl and don’t be too political. Bear in mind there’s good folks on either side of the aisle.”

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This {photograph} exhibits the entrance web page of the Could 10, 1980 version of The Alpena Information, that includes protection of then-presidential candidate George H.W. Bush’s marketing campaign cease at Alpena Excessive Faculty.

His work in Northeast Michigan caught the eye of Gov. John Swainson, who named him Michigan legal professional common. On the time, Kelley was the youngest legal professional common within the nation. When he retired 37 years later, he was the oldest legal professional common within the nation and held the file for the longest-serving legal professional common till Iowa’s Tom Miller broke the file early this yr.

Among the many many issues named after Kelley are the Institute of Ethics and the Authorized Occupation at Michigan State College and the Capitol Walkway that connects the Michigan Corridor of Justice — residence to the state Supreme Court docket — to the Capitol constructing in downtown Lansing.

“I’m very happy to be in my adoptive residence of Alpena and to listen to all the variety phrases,” Kelley instructed a crowd gathered on the Alpena County Courthouse in 2013 to honor him with a courthouse plaque. “The times I had in Alpena had been very comfortable and we had a number of enjoyable. Being on this room brings again many recollections. My regulation profession in Alpena was like a Victorian success story you learn within the nineteenth century. Every thing you hoped would occur did occur and I met many fantastic folks. It’s a good place to dwell and everybody is sweet. I realized dwelling in Alpena that, when you’re good to anyone, simply plain good, no matter faith or politics, 99 occasions out of 100, they are going to be good again to you.”


Like Kelley knew when he and his regulation college buddy hauled all their sure copies of Michigan’s Compiled Legal guidelines to Alpena a long time in the past, Northeast Michigan has a popularity as a stable Republican stronghold. A few of Alpena’s first settlers thought to call town after John C. Fremont, the primary Republican presidential candidate.

Certainly, Alpena, Presque Isle, Montmorency, and Alcona counties have collectively gone for the Republican in 9 of the previous 11 presidential elections.

However the area is extra various than the pink map would possibly make it appear. Invoice Clinton received the area handily in each 1992 and ’96, and, whereas the area as complete went for John McCain in 2008, Barack Obama truly carried each Alpena and Presque Isle counties by slim margins that yr.

Which means this area just isn’t a positive factor for any candidate, and that has introduced some big-name campaigners to attempt to rally the Up North crowds.

In 1980, George H.W. Bush spoke in Alpena in his first bid for president. One-time vice presidential nominee and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin stumped for Donald Trump right here in 2016. Laura Bush has spoken right here, as have many candidates for statewide workplace, together with senator, legal professional common, and governor.

“Historical past exhibits even distant elements of contested states matter with the waves of politics,” Tim Kuehnlein, a political science teacher at Alpena Group School, stated in an e-mail to The Information. “The area is extra contested than meets the attention, and it exhibits that no vote must be taken without any consideration, even in small city distant areas of a state, particularly in a battleground state.”

Justin A. Hinkley might be reached at 989-358-5686 or Comply with him on Twitter @JustinHinkley.

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