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Tue September 13, 2011
Political Races in Michigan, Stranger Than Fiction
Officially, this is still summer, even though the first leaves are tumbling from the trees and the light looks more like fall.
Politically, however, it is clear what season it is: Silly season. Yesterday’s news included one candidate for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, Pete Hoekstra, happily accepting the endorsement of a man, Mike Cox, whom he openly despised and reviled barely a year ago.
Also, a state legislator announced she’d challenge one of the nation’s longest-serving incumbent congressmen. The oddest thing about this is not the David and Goliath aspect. It is that the congressman doesn’t even live in that district.
She does, but most think he will be a heavy favorite anyway. Meanwhile, in Lansing, the Republicans who control the state senate are moving closer to setting a date for a presidential primary.
Four years ago, they nearly lost half their delegates because they violated party rules by holding the primary too early. Not only that, they held it so early that voters picked a candidate who was soon out of the race. Michigan was both illegal and irrelevant.
Well, guess what. They appear to be gearing up to do it again.
The chair of the elections committee, Senator Dave Robertson, wants a February twenty-eighth primary. The party says it will penalize any state that holds a primary earlier than March sixth. But Senator Robertson says he thinks we should break the rules anyway.
Meanwhile, the only two Democratic congressmen under the age of eighty have decided on a battle to the death for their party’s nomination in the fourteenth district. And neither live there. Hansen Clarke has represented much of the part of Detroit that is in the district. Gary Peters used to represent some of the Oakland County section in the state senate.
Both, however, live in other districts now. However, Peters was put into a district with Sander Levin, whom he couldn’t possibly beat, and so he is running here instead. Hansen Clarke, meanwhile, decided to run in this district so that John Conyers, his old boss, could run in the newly reconfigured thirteenth district.
Congressmen, by the way, are not required to live in the district they represent, although most of them do. It will be interesting to see if any of these men move.
And finally, whether he moves or not, Conyers, who has been in Congress since Lyndon Johnson was president, is going to have a primary fight on his hands. He’s being challenged by State Representative Shanelle Jackson, who is term-limited.
Conyers will be eighty-three next year. Jackson is thirty-one. He had been in Congress for fifteen years before she was born.
Even though she lives in the district and he does not, she is bound to be an underdog. But even some of Conyers’ longtime supporters are worried about him. This weekend, he spoke to a meeting of Arab-Americans discussing the impact of 9-11. He told them they needed to appreciate Miles Davis and John Coltrane, and encouraged them to board a bus to Washington to mark the anniversary of the Congressional black caucus.
The congressional primaries are eleven months away, and a lot may happen in the meantime. But this prediction seems safe: Things are bound to be interesting.