Monday, October 06, 2008

Endorsements for the US House

Not that my endorsement matters at all, I'm compelled to pick who I think ought to be elected, re-elected, or voted out in November. Michigan has fifteen US Congressional districts, and if the economy is any indication, we may lose another seat or two when the census is taken in two years. Only two races are of any significant importance; the rest are all expected to re-elect their incumbents.

District 1 - Rep. Bart Stupak (D - Menominee) faces challenger State Representative Tom Casperson (R - Escanaba). I'm actually voting in this one and I will vote to re-elect Stupak. Stupak is the first Democrat I've ever voted for, and despite the fact that we're virtually polar opposites politically (Democrat, pro-life, opposes partial privatization of Social Security, and is pro-abstinence sex education), Casperson offers little. Casperson pushed for a state constitutional amendment to protect hunter's rights. Absolute overkill. I'm all for hunting, but Michigan needs clout now more than ever in Washington, and Stupak will be elected to his 8th term if he wins in November.

District 2 - Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R - Holland) v. Fred Johnson (D - Holland). Hoekstra chaired the House Intelligence Committee before Republicans lost the House in 2006. He will remain the Ranking Member if he wins and has valuable insight in the War on Terror. I pick Hoekstra.

District 3 - Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R - Grand Rapids) v. Henry Sanchez (D - Saranac). Ehlers was voted in in a by-election in 1993, and is a nuclear physicist, which makes his qualities unique when compared to most members of the House. Ehlers is also a moderate who frequently votes against the radical right of the Republican Party and opposes a missile defense shield, which he says cannot work. The Grand Rapids area is well-served by Vern Ehlers.

District 4 - Rep. Dave Camp (R - Midland) v. Andrew Concannon (D - Saginaw). Camp is not very impressive, but neither is Concannon. Camp does not have many notable accomplishments while serving in the House, but if the GOP is to ever regain control of that chamber, his seniority would move him up the ranks; all the more to increase this state's clout. Dave Camp should be re-elected unless the Democrats can find a worthy candidate to replace him.

District 5 - Rep. Dale Kildee (D - Flint) faces Matt Sawicki (R - Bay City), a school teacher in Bangor Township. Kildee is a moderate Democrat, most notably pro-life. He is also heavily connected to the unions in the Flint area. Sawicki offers little more than boilerplate Republican talking points. Kildee should win easily, but I don't have much of a taste for him politically. No endorsement here.

District 6 - Rep. Fred Upton (R - St. Joseph), a moderate Republican from the west side of the state takes on Don Cooney (D - Kalamazoo). Upton has supported candidates I've supported, so I'd like to think that we're on similar thought waves. Sending Upton back to Congress looks good for Republicans.

District 7 - Rep. Tim Walberg (R - Tipton) is fighting for his political life against State Sen. Mark Schauer (D - Battle Creek). Walberg was a sixteen-year State Representative who had little to show for all his time there, despite being a chair of the Appropriations Committee. He is as divisive as they come, and an absolute firebrand. He continually supports the wrongheaded policies of the Bush administration including the War in Iraq, supporting a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and is vehemently pro-life.

In 2004, Walberg lost a six-way race to Dr. Joe Schwarz, coming in third. Walberg and five other conservatives split their vote and allowed Schwarz (who is pro-choice, opposes a constitutional ban on gay marriage, and supports embryonic stem cell research) to win with 28% of the vote in the GOP Primary. Walberg refused to endorse Schwarz after he won, reneging on a promise beforehand to endorse whoever won the race.

In 2006, Walberg knew his chances against Schwarz favored him and with the help of the Club for Growth, managed to trash Schwarz thanks to heaping contributions from CfG's backers. Walberg won 53% of the vote in the 2006 GOP Primary, but barely beat out Sharon Renier in a contest where the Republican should have won easily. Had Schwarz been in that race, he would have won easily over Renier as he did in 2004.

Mark Schauer, on the other hand, should not be this viable, given the GOP-tilt of the district. But given the national sentiment towards Republicans, Schauer stands likely to upset the incumbent. He defeated State Representative Mickey Mortimer decisively in 2002 for his State Senate seat, thanks in large part, to the moderate/Democratic vote in Battle Creek that year, as well as Mortimer taking the election for granted.

Libertarian Ken Proctor is running for the fourth consecutive time. Proctor is so insane, he would be literally off the charts if insanity could be measured. On abortion, he supports what are called "embryonic transfers," which would turn women into human heffers for bringing the unborn to term. I understand the need to sometimes find a third way, or a middle ground on such a divisive issue. This is not what I would hope for.

This one's a bit personal for me. I worked on the Schwarz campaigns in 2004 and 2006. Walberg is not a trustworthy individual and uses poor judgment. He doesn't believe in evolution and opposes gay marriage. He made headlines in early 2007 for saying the situation in Iraq is as safe as Detroit. I was hoping Dr. Schwarz would have challenged him for the seat again, but Schwarz had too many things on his plate to consider running again.

Walberg is an absolute embarassment to the state and the 7th District must purge themselves of this atrocious legislator. Voters should back Mark Schauer as a means to make amends for the sins of 2006, and Joe Schwarz should run again in 2010.

District 8 - Rep. Mike Rogers (R - Brighton) takes on Robert Alexander (D - East Lansing). Rogers narrowly won his House seat in 2000 over State Sen. Dianne Byrum (D - Onondaga), but is poised to win again.

Bob Alexander is an interesting candidate. He has served in the Peace Corps, has an M.A. in teaching from Wayne State, taught in the Ypsilanti/Willow Run schools, and even substituted for Lansing schools while teaching at Davenport University. Alexander has been an advocate for humanitarian causes such as nursing care and providing other medical services. He served as a policy analyst for the State Energy Program and Medical Services and currently runs a consulting firm for business management, Alexander Consulting LLC. His latest accomplishments include extending health care coverage to over 16,000 Ingham County residents and leading a local petition drive pushing for a near-30% increase in the state minimum wage.

Had Alexander more name recognition, this race would be more interesting. But Rogers is one of the perennial "rising stars" of a state party that is in tatters. I don't know if he is a climber or a camper, but the more he stays put, the more he becomes a camper. I think Rogers serves 8th district well and should be re-elected without much problem, but a challenger like Alexander shall provide him the extra incentive to perform at a higher level when in DC.

District 9 - Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R - Bloomfield Hills) takes on perennial candidate Gary Peters (D - Bloomfield Hills). Knollenberg has staved off several challengers in the last few years, and that is a good thing, because after the 7th District, this is the only competitive district in the state and currently the 2nd hottest race in the state. Knollenberg gets consistent returns of the low to mid 50s in the past few general elections.

Gary Peters, on the other hand, hasn't won anything since being re-elected to the State Senate in 1998. He did, however, manage to pass a law banning any new wells in the state unless it's an emergency, and banning the possession of body armor by convicted felons. Peters is well-rounded in the areas of public policy, and has taught at Wayne State and Central Michigan. He also served as the State Lottery Commission Chair under Gov. Jennifer Granholm until 2007.

Currently, he is involved in a controversy at CMU. The school hired him as the Robert and Marjorie Griffin endowed Chairman in American Government, a privately-funded position which requires him to teach while making $85,000 annually for three years. In 2007, he announced he would challenge Knollenberg for his Congressional seat. Critics contend running for Congress diminishes his capacity to focus on teaching his students about Michigan politics. He may also run into conflict of interest issues if and when he has to discuss Joe Knollenberg. Dennis Lennox, who was president of the Young Americans for Freedom Chapter at CMU, was banned by the school from videotaping Peters on campus. The school also prohibited the passing out of anti-Peters handbills on campus. Both cases have been challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The short and sweet of it: Knollenberg has at least done enough to show that he is worthy of retaining his seat, despite Peters' impressive credentials. Unfortunately for Peters, he is on a current losing streak, having lost a nomination for Governor, a race for Attorney General, and is about to continue it in November.

District 10 - Rep. Candace Miller (R - Harrison Township) v. Robert Denison (D - Shelby Township). Miller, who like Mike Rogers, is a perennial rising star in the state GOP. However, she is quite risk-averse, and won't test the waters for any office outside of her current one. This one goes to Miller, but she ought to consider another run at statewide office.

District 11 - Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R - Livonia) faces Joseph Larkin (D - Livonia), a private attorney. Neither spark excitement, but McCotter's experience in state and federal government gives him an edge over Larkin.

District 12 - Rep. Sander Levin (D - Royal Oak) v. Bert Copple (R - Center Line). The Levin name has proven to be unbeatable, even though he couldn't unseate then-Gov. Bill Milliken in the 1970s. Levin has been surpassed by younger brother Carl, who now sits in the US Senate since 1979. He will win, but this isn't suprising. No endorsement here.

District 13 - Rep. Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick (D - Detroit) v. Edward J. Gubics (R - Wyandotte). Kilpatrick already faced her challengers, Mary Waters and Martha Scott back in the Democratic Primary, and barely made it out alive, politically. Despite being ineffective as a legislator, Kilpatrick's district is ovewhelmingly Democratic. She'll get at least 80% of the vote. No matter what Gubics stands for, he is merely token opposition. No endorsement here.

District 14 - Rep. John Conyers (D - Detroit) faces no Republican challenger. Only a Green and Libertarian candidate emerged, but Conyers will be re-elected to his 23rd term, making him still the second longest serving member of the House after...

District 15 - Rep. John Dingell (D - Dearborn). Yes, Dingell is the longest serving member of the US House, having past the 50-year mark in October 2005. He is well storied and continues to play a pivotal role for the Democrats in the House. He faces John Lynch (R - Ypsilanti), who will not be a factor. As the Dean of the House of Representatives, Dingell has represented southeastern Michigan for more than a half century. Every session of Congress, he puts forth legislation to create nationalized health insurance, an issue his father, John Dingell Sr., championed. The two longest serving members of the House have districts that buttress one another. Dingell is more statesman like while Conyers is a left-wing firebrand, most notably questioning the legitimacy of the Bush presidency and pushing for reparations for slavery. Despite both of their popularity back in that part of the state, I'm inclined to not endorse either one, since I'm just not that impressed with someone getting re-elected again and again. Both districts are carved to keep their seats safe, and I'm just not of the ideological ilk that are those two districts.

The score: Eight Republicans, Two Democrats, and Five refusals to endorse anyone.

Next: US Senate.

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