Wild card candidate, negativity define race for 11th Congressional District
An ad run by Democrat Bobby Mckenzie in Michigan's 11th Congressional District race won a dubious distinction recently. The Washington Post called it "one of the most brutal attack ads you'll ever see."
"Foreclosure King David Trott has made millions foreclosing on Michigan's families," says a narrator, over a slightly ominous soundtrack. "Trott profited from human misery as tens of thousands of Michiganders were evicted from their homes."
In the dramatization, two thugs approach a home at night. Inside the home, we see a sweet old lady, smiling as she watches television. The thugs bang on the door and break it down, rolling the terrified and weeping woman outside in her wheelchair. They leave her on the street, and start hauling out her belongings.
The ad is over the top, but it is based on a fact.
One of the thousands of bank foreclosures handled by Republican candidate David Trott's law firm did result in a 101-year-old woman being thrown out on the street in her wheelchair - her medications tossed in the garbage. (She was returned to her home fairly soon after the eviction, when media reports caused a public outcry.)
"Foreclosure King Trott" is a campaign mantra for Democrat Bobby McKenzie, a former CIA analyst in DC who returned to his boyhood home in the 11th District to run for Congress.
During the only debate between Trott and McKenzie, on WDIV, Trott admitted the ad is offensive.
But he kept his cool.
"It's a misrepresentation of the facts," Trott said. "A lot of people have come up to me and said they're even more motivated to help me after such an outrageous attack."
An uphill climb for a Democrat in the 11th
McKenzie's tactics try to make voting for Trott unpalatable, but they may also make McKenzie appear unlikeable.
Bill Ballenger is an analyst with Inside Michigan Politics.
"At this point all the idealistic notions that Bobby McKenzie brought to the race a year or so ago have dissipated and disappeared, and he's gone completely negative," says Ballenger.
But he says McKenzie has few alternatives. He is badly outgunned financially, for one thing.
As of October 16, David Trott had poured at least $3.4 million of his own considerable wealth into his campaign. McKenzie had raised less than $700,000.
"And it's about a 56-57% Republican district," points out Ballenger, "That is a really a tough uphill climb."
A ray of hope for Democrats?
Incumbent Congressman Kerry Bentivolio was trounced by David Trott in the Republican primary.
Then, angered by the Michigan Republican Party's refusal to help him fight a wealthy challenger, he decided to run a write-in campaign.
He continues to criticize Trott, sometimes referring to him obliquely as one of the "new breed" of politicians "in thousand-dollar suits."
But his main purpose in running seems to defend his record.
"As a member of Congress, I was voted or rated number one most transparent Congressman out of 84 freshmen," Bentivolio told a crowd at a recent candidate's forum, "and in the top five out of all of those in Congress."
Political analyst Bill Ballenger says Bentivolio could siphon some Tea Party loyalist votes from David Trott.
McKenzie's attack ads could do some more damage, giving him a chance at a squeaker of a win.
There is also another candidate running, Libertarian John Tatar.
For the most part, David Trott continues to campaign above the fray.
He is appearing at events and fundraisers hosted by mainstream Republicans, burnishing his image in ads as a hometown job creator, and acting like it's only a matter of time before the title "Congressman for the 11th District," is his.