Wanted: A decent challenger to Walberg
|By Kyle Melinn|
Don’t be surprised if this cry for help shows up on Craigslist. Probably under “general labor jobs”:
Live in Eaton County or elsewhere in the 7th Congressional District? A Democrat with some prior elected office experience? Have access to a little bit of money? No criminal record? The Michigan Democratic Party needs you. Call Mark. (517) 371-5410.
On second thought, the ad probably already ran. Because here we are, mid-March, two months before the filing deadline and nobody is running against the Democrats’ favorite political punching bag, U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, in the state’s most politically volatile congressional district.
If this keeps up by Easter, the Craigslist posting will sound a bit more like this:
Live in Michigan? Can you move here quickly? Does Rush Limbaugh make you angry? Did you like Eddie Murphy in Distinguished Gentleman? A fan of Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just A Bill?” Can you sing the Star-Spangled Banner without reading the lyrics? Can you read? …
You get the picture.
The situation is extremely serious for Democrats. We’re entering into a presidential year, with an incumbent president kicking Republican butt in Michigan polls — and the D’s have no candidate, let along a decent candidate to run against the state’s shakiest Republican incumbent.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is in talks with former U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, who beat Walberg in a crowded six-way Republican primary in 2004 and served a term in Congress. Though he has only run as a Republican in his long political career, Schwarz is independent-minded and very moderate; he is a huge favorite among policy-minded thinkers who barf at run-of-the-mill puppet candidates.
Problem is, the ear, nose and throat doctor got carved out of the 7th Congressional District when Schwarz’s Battle Creek home got roped into Grand Rapids-based U.S. Rep. Justin Amash’s 3rd District. That’s not a legal disqualifier. Amazingly, a member of Congress need only live in the state he or she is representing, not the district.
But it’d be nice if a congressional candidate’s political base could vote for the candidate. Carrying around the “carpetbagger” tag isn’t cool either. But at this point, baggers can’t be choosers. That’s why Schwarz is on the horn.
Then there’s the other problem. Schwarz, 74, hates dialing for dollars and the DCCC hates sending over checks to candidates who can’t raise a few hundred K on their own. Don’t expect a lot of movement there.
The Democrats need to flip about 25 Republican seats to retake the majority in the U.S. House, and they’d prefer to invest in candidates with proven fundraising abilities, like Gary McDowell in the 1st, Steve Pestka in the 3rd or Dr. Syed Taj in the 11th.
Unfortunately for the D’s, the incumbents in the 1st, 3rd and 11th aren’t nearly as weak as Walberg, as a review of his congressional election history shows:
2004: Finished third in a six-way Republican primary with 17.6 percent (Schwarz won with 27.8 percent).
2006: Beat Schwarz in a head-to-head Republican primary 53 percent to 47 percent. Won seat with 49.9 percent of the vote against an underfunded, unknown Democratic organic farmer named Sharon Renier, who managed 45.9 percent.
2008: Lost his seat 48.7 to 46.4 percent to Democrat Mark Schauer.
2010: Regained seat 50.2 percent to 45.4 percent over Schauer in the nation’s most expensive congressional race. Note: Democrats didn’t win anything that year.
This year, Schauer isn’t coming back. He, too, is from Battle Creek. He’s running an environmentalist/labor movement called the Blue Green Alliance that’s pushing a constitutional amendment to raise the state’s mandatory alternative energy standards to 25 percent by 2025.
Other potential top-flight candidates like former state House Majority Floor Leader Kathy Angerer, former state Sen. Jim Berryman, former state Rep. Doug Spade, former state Rep. Dudley Spade (Doug’s brother), Jackson Mayor Marty Griffin and former Granholm campaign adviser Howard Edelson all said “no” for various individual reasons.
Meanwhile, the DCCC is softening up Walberg for whoever runs. In the last two months, their anti-Walberg press releases have accused him of “shipping jobs overseas” (3/8/12), “protecting pay and golden parachutes” (3/7/12), “being against a crack down on rising gas prices” (2/29/12), “making it easier for speculators to manipulate oil prices” (2/24/12) and “protecting big oil profits while ending Medicare” (2/22/12).
The 7th is very winnable for the Democrats this year, and everyone knows it.
Even with the addition of Monroe County, the Eaton County 7th District goes Democratic if the party’s candidates, in general, do well up and down the ballot, according to a July analysis by Ed Sarpolus of Target Insyght. That happened in ’06 and ’08 — and things are looking good for D’s in ’12.
So maybe the D’s can put up a ham sandwich and win regardless. They’d just like to find something a little more appetizing.
The question is, “Who?”