Sunday, November 07, 2010

Joe Schwarz Should Run for Senate

The 2012 campaign is already underway. By now the media has taken its attention away from the midterms and is gearing up for a heated reelection campaign for President Obama. Obama will have to lay out his agenda in the coming months as he delivers his State of the Union address with the hopes of turning around the economy and the situation in Afghanistan.

Republicans will offer an array of Presidential hopefuls, each with their own set of bona fides, hoping to corral the entire party behind him (or her). Voters will get reacquainted with the likes of Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, and Mike Huckabee, while others will be introduced to the likes of Tim Pawlenty.

We in Michigan will have a Senate election as Senator Debbie Stabenow is up for reelection. Stabenow won a close race in 2000 over incumbent Spencer Abraham, and won reelection in 2006 over Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. Stabenow was largely credited for leading the ticket, despite the fact that it was Gov. Jennifer Granholm whose name was at the top of the ticket.

Stabenow is very popular among Democrats, and among voters across the state. At one time, she was the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate after Dick Durbin, the Minority Whip, and Harry Reid, the Democratic Leader. Virtually no Republican in the state has a shot at unseating her.

Except Joe Schwarz.

Dr. Joe Schwarz is a former Congressman who served Michigan's 7th Congressional District from 2005-2007. Schwarz's resume makes Stabenow's seem rather plain. Don't get me wrong, Stabenow is no slouch. She earned her bachelor's from Michigan State, and an MSW from MSU (she was a grad student when she won her first elected office).

Whereas as Stabenow went from being an Ingham County Commissioner to State Representative, State Senator, nominee for Lt. Governor, US Representative, and now Senator, Schwarz's curriculum vitae is even more impressive. He earned a Bachelor's of History from the University of Michigan, his MD from Wayne State University, and then entered the US Navy as an officer serving as a battlefield surgeon in Viet Nam. He joined the Defense Intelligence Agency and later the CIA, where he still today cannot disclose his full involvement.

He came back to Michigan and began a practice as an Otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat), became Mayor of Battle Creek, was then elected State Senator in 1986, and served there until 2002 as a result of state mandated term limits. He made an unsuccessful bid for Governor of Michigan that same year, and lost decidedly to eventual winner, Lt. Governor Dick Posthumous.

In 2004, Rep. Nick Smith announced he was retiring and Schwarz decided to run for his seat in southern Michigan. He won a hotly contested Republican Primary against five other Republicans, and proceeded to win the general election over Sharon Renier with about 59% of the vote.

(Before I go any further, I forgot to mention this in my original posting. What's 15 minutes between the original and an edited update? We can still be friends, eh?)

Most freshmen Congressman accomplish very little in their first two years, let alone ten years if they make it that far in politics. Rep. Schwarz, however, was able to convince the Base Realignment Commission (BRAC) to save the National Guard Base in Battle Creek, which in turned saved thousands of jobs in the region.

Unfortunately, Schwarz lost his reelection bid in the 2006 GOP Primary to Tim Walberg, a social fanatic whose campaign was funded largely by out-of-state interest groups like the Club for Growth. Walberg's little helpers ran a misinformation and smear campaign against Schwarz who was targeted as a liberal due to his moderate stances on a number of social issues, such as abortion, embryonic stem cell research, and his opposition to a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, because he felt the matter did not rise to the level of a constitutional question.

Schwarz has not been involved in politics since he lost his seat four years ago. In 2008, he endorsed then-State Senator Mark Schauer from Battle Creek over Walberg. Schauer defeated Walberg, as he ran on Barack Obama's coattails. Despite being the superior candidate, Schauer was defeated last Tuesday by Walberg in a reelection bid that swept over 60 Democrats out of the House of Representatives.

But I think Schwarz should run. The likelihood of a quick economic rebound in Michigan is very low at this point. The economy is tied to Obama's fortunes, as well as many incumbent Democrats like Stabenow. Schwarz's moderate views could make his candidacy appealing to independents and some conservative Democrats all over the state, including vote-rich Oakland County, a former GOP stronghold that went for Rick Snyder this last election.

Despite his lack of name recognition, Schwarz's biggest challenge might be his aversion to fund raising. He has been known to avoid "the ask" to solicit campaign contributions. But perhaps a larger GOP operation behind him could alleviate some of that aversion.

There may be a question about his age. He was first elected to the House when he was 66. In 2012, he'll turn 75 in less than two weeks after the election. But age has rarely been an impediment for US Senators. Even if he only serves one term in the Senate and retires, his expertise on so many areas including the military, foreign policy, education, and science would make him an asset to the GOP caucus in the upper chamber.

A quick scan of the internet shows some interest on facebook among GOP activists at nominating former US Representative Pete Hoekstra of Holland. But no Republican has announced his candidacy yet. I would expect that sometime in the spring of next year, we'll begin to see exploratory committees formed and official announcements made in the fall of 2011.

As of today, I don't think it'll happen. More likely, he'll continue his practice at Battle Creek, work as a visiting lecturer at U of M, and accept an appointment here and there to various state boards commissioned by Gov. Snyder.

But the Republican Party, the state, and the US Senate need more people like Dr. Schwarz. I'm not trying to carry water for Republicans - they can do that without me.

But if Joe Schwarz gives it a go, I'll actually vote in 2012.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reflections on the 2010 Midterms

Thought I'd just jot down some points about Tuesday's GOP smack down.
  • I did not expect the Republicans to win over 60 seats. I didn't begin thinking they'd win the House until September. Talk of taking the Senate seemed a might wishful.
  • Speaking of taking the Senate, the Tea Party cost the GOP control of the Senate. It would seem the Tea Party was more effective for House candidates, where regionalism reigns.
  • Christine O'Donnell, a Tea Partier, blames Republican 'cannibalism' for her defeat. She forgets the fact that she's Christine O'Donnell. Or that she's in Delaware. But she's right: Republican cannibalism was at work, as Mike Castle will tell you.
  • Lincoln Chafee is back in politics. Not following elections across the country like I did in my college days, I was surprised to see that he was running for Governor of Rhode Island. He won, too, as an Independent over a Republican (by a small margin) and a Democrat (wide margin).
  • For a while on Tuesday night, it looked like John Dingell (or his campaign) was going to have to pull an all-nighter. As time wore on, he began to separate from his opponent, Rob Steele. Still it would've been good to see him win in the low 50s. Even after half a century, it's still a good thing for democracy when even he needs to earn his seat.
  • Rick Snyder carried the Republicans all the way to Lansing. The MI GOP now controls all levers of government in the state. The GOP wrestled back control of the House after four years out of power. They now have a 2/3 majority in the Senate which means legislation can take effect immediately. The State Supreme Court now has a Republican majority again, thanks to the electorate voting out 'incumbent' Justice Tom Davis, a Granholm appointee.
  • This election was more than a rejection of Obama; in Michigan, it was a wholesale rejection of Gov. Jennifer Granholm. Virgil Bernero is the Democrats' McCain in this state. Only Bernero was more obnoxious, pompous, disingenuous, and flat out wrong on so many things, unlike McCain.
  • 2011 will be a pivotal year for Obama. If the economy doesn't improve next year, he's done. I can't give you a benchmark; but if I had to, I'd say at least 3 million jobs alone next year and about that much in 2012.
  • I'd prefer Obama to Romney. Or Huckabee. Or Palin. But I'll take Chuck Hagel over Obama. Any day.
  • I still would've voted for McCain.
  • I feel no guilt about not voting. This might become permanent.