2012 Federal/State/Local Endorsements for Grand Rapids, Michigan

November 6 is less than a month away, but already the battle lines are drawn. Herewith are my personal endorsements for candidates and my recommendations for sundry ballot proposals that we face on the state and municipal levels.

President of the United States

Only Mitt Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, have what it takes to correct the wild fiscal imprudence and geostrategic incompetence of Team Obama. Whether it’s “leading from behind” — as Iran ticks closer to the Bomb — or taking over one-sixth of the U.S. economy with a one-size-fits-all approach to socialized medicine, Barack Obama (D) has been a miserable failure whose ego is outmatched only by his ham-handed management of the federal treasury. America deserves leaders like Romney and Ryan, men who understand what it takes to get Americans working again and how to keep our public finances sane. We need Mitt and Paul. Vote Romney/Ryan!

United States Senator

As far as senators go, Debbie Stabenow (D) hasn’t been bad. But she hasn’t been a leader, either. With the Senate in a state of mortal combat, Stabenow could have shown courage to resist the worst of Harry Reid’s bumbling machinations. Instead, she blithely sings to the majority leader’s hyperpartisan tune. We need someone who’s not just average, but someone above average — someone like Republican Pete Hoekstra, whose bipartisan leadership of the House Intelligence Committee and keen grasp of the issues we face as a nation make him the right man at the right time. Vote Pete Hoekstra!

United States Representative, 3rd District

Steve Pestka is a good guy. He’s a Democrat, but no one’s perfect, and he’s more of a centrist than most. Republican Justin Amash is a socially awkward acolyte of Ron Paul — someone who opposed defunding Planned Parenthood because it was “a bill of attainder.” (Do you see that? It’s the sight of a blogger’s eyes rolling.) Inasmuch as I’d love to have a solid Republican to support, we’re stuck with a libertarian in sheep’s clothing who’s been written off even among the GOP Congressional leadership. Endorsement goes to Steve Pestka.

Michigan Representative, 75th District

No endorsement. Neither candidate has done anything whatsoever to inform voters about his positions.

State Board of Education; Regents of the University of Michigan; Trustees of Michigan State University; Governors of Wayne State University

No endorsements.  Radio silence from all the candidates.

Kent County Prosecuting Attorney

Republican William Forsyth is running unopposed, which makes sense because he’s been a stalwart who gets the job done. Vote for Forsyth.

Kent County Sheriff

The long-time sheriff, Lawrence Stelma, is up for re-election. I have no personal reason to oppose him, but there’s been a lot of talk among some locals about the need for a change. Democrat James Farris is endorsed instead; Farris was a deputy chief who was passed up for the top slot in the Grand Rapids Police Department. Some say it’s because he’s black. I don’t know about that, but I do know that people who are clued into local law enforcement say Farris has served with dignity and grace even when he was passed over. Time for a promotion to the sheriff’s office, methinks.

Kent County Clerk and Register of Deeds

This one’s easy; Republican Mary Hollinrake runs a clean and efficient operation and deserves re-election. Vote Hollinrake.

Kent County Treasurer

Like the clerk, Republican Kenneth Parrish is not flashy, but he is effective. Vote Parrish.

Kent County Drain Commissioner

Drain commissioner nod goes to Bill Byl, who’s been an able local public servant over the years.

Kent County Commissioner for the 17th District

No endorsements.  Radio silence from all the candidates.

Judicial Elections; Grand Rapids Public School Board

None of these are contested elections at the local level, except the six-year term for the Kent County Probate Court. In that race, I endorse the non-partisan incumbents Patricia Gardner and G. Patrick Hillary for re-election.

For the Michigan Supreme Court’s non-partisan ballot, I endorse the re-election of Justice Stephen Markman and the election of Judge Colleen O’Brien for full eight-year terms, and I endorse Justice Brian Zahra for re-election to a partial term.

Michigan Ballot Proposals

  • Vote YES on Proposal 1.  The wording on this is sneaky; if you favor the Emergency Manager law — and you should; it keeps Detroit from totally collapsing — then you need to vote YES on this proposal to keep the law in place. This is a referendum to keep PA 4, which established the emergency-manager role for Michigan.
  • Vote NO on Proposal 2.  How clearly can I say it? Vote HELL NO to enshrining a constitutional right to unionize into the Michigan Constitution.
  • Vote NO on Proposal 3.  Support Prop 3 if you’re in favor of rolling blackouts, since this initiative, if passed, would require Michigan to get 25 percent of all its energy from renewable resources while capping rate increases to 1 percent per year. Gee, who pays for this Green-energy bonanza? Let me guess … the CFL bulb fairy?
  • Vote NO on Proposal 4.  The state constitution isn’t the place to enshrine new bureaucracies. This proposal would seek to create a home-care council to serve as a quasi-public labor union for home-care workers. Vote this nonsense off the island, posthaste.
  • Vote NO on Proposal 5.  Beware Geeks bearing gifts: This proposal looks good at first glance, but it’s a poisoned pill. The proposal would require a 2/3 vote to modify tax law. It also requires a 2/3 vote to reduce taxes. Better to staff the legislature with solid fiscal conservatives than to screw around with supermajorities.
  • Vote NO on Proposal 6.  Just say no to sour grapes. This bill would stymie Gov. Snyder’s necessary drive to get another bridge to Canada. Prop 6 is pushed by the guy who owns (and thereby profits from) the current Ambassador Bridge. Tell this yahoo that the state ballot isn’t a place to solidify his rent-seeking.

Grand Rapids Municipal Proposals

  • Vote NO on Proposal I.  This proposal, if adopted, would make the City Comptroller a position appointed by the City Manager instead of an elected job. No point in reducing the public’s influence on City Hall — particularly when the man in charge, who isn’t elected, leads a city with a weak mayoral structure.
  • Vote NO on Proposal II.  This basically legalizes pot in a big way — making it (at most) a $100 fine and darned difficult to prosecute.

Remember — it’s your civic duty to vote; it’s your moral duty to vote as I prefer. 🙂

Local Politics: An Exercise in Depression

I’ve mostly kept my powder dry about some of the drama going on in local politics. Time now to loose the fusillade.

  1. The ongoing drama about the Anuzis vs. Agema race for national committeeman vexes the mind. The state party remains fairly weak, a problem that plagued us during the Granholm years and shows no signs of abating. Although I appreciate Saul’s record, Delegate-gate (masterfully recorded by the folks at RightMichigan) is a big deal. Michigan is a bluer state than it ought to be in part because we have a bad track record of leadership at the state-party level, a problem that trickles down to candidate selection. I bear Anuzis no ill will, and I really don’t have a solid opinion either way about Dave Agema, but one thing I do know is that the old guard of the state party needs to be retired in favor of solid but pragmatic conservatives who will be more aggressive in the pursuit of the low-hanging fruit that Michigan offers but the leadership can’t ever seem to pluck. (Note: At this weekend’s state convention, Agema beat Anuzis — so Agema and Terri Lynn Land will serve as the state’s committeemen.)
  2. I exercise cautious optimism that the Kent County Republicans will get their act together. For years (roughly, the Joanne Voorhees stewardship) the county party felt more like a country club than a political organization, a place where well-connected people connected with each other. Several attempts to get involved, including phone calls and emails to various people in the county apparatus, were met with silence. And in the interim, we let folks like Justin Amash (Ron Paul’s heir apparent in the House) put MI-3 at risk of a Democratic pick-up. Word on the street is that the new leadership at the county level will be more open and engaging, but time will tell. I never had trouble getting involved directly in Kalamazoo or Ottawa; Kent’s impenetrability makes no sense.
  3. I submitted paperwork to run for precinct delegate. I’m not sure if it was received and properly processed — stay tuned. I’m told that Tea Party types have been quietly running for precinct delegate slots so that they can build a critical mass to “take over” at the county convention; surely, their efforts paid off with the Anuzis upset this weekend at the state convention. Usually, precinct delegate races are quiet non-events. The Tea Party makes it more interesting.
  4. The Rev. George Heartwell, mayor of Grand Rapids, recently made waves with a pro-Planned Parenthood spiel. Most of it didn’t make a lot of sense, and I understand that he’s apologizing at least for his tone because of pressure at the city commission meeting. It’s not clear why hizzonor felt the need to advocate for PP in the first place.

Never a dull moment. Major lesson: Political leadership, no matter how high or low, is a public trust, not a personal endowment. So be responsive stewards.

Election Review: We Remembered November, Now What?

The Republican Governors Association encouraged us to remember November. We listened; after the midterm elections, the GOP picked up more than 60 seats in the House of Representatives, six seats in the U.S. Senate, a majority of governorships, a majority of statehouses, and — for the first time since the 1920s — an absolute majority of state legislators.

In Michigan, the GOP kept the offices of Attorney General and Secretary of State and, in a landslide, our “tough nerd” Rick Snyder reclaimed the Governor’s mansion for the first time since John Engler. In addition, Republicans took the state House, picked up two U.S. House seats, and earned a majority-conservative state Supreme Court. The Republicans have a solid lock on all three branches of state government and a majority of the state’s Congressmen (nine of 16). The lone ranking Democrats are the state’s two U.S. Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow. And lest we forget, Michigan had a Republican Senator as recently as 2000, when Spencer Abraham — a good Senator but weak campaigner — lost his re-election bid to “Liberal Debbie.”

So now what?

On a national level, the House Republicans are sounding the best possible note. No triumphalism. No gloating. No elephants parading down Pennsylvania Avenue. Instead, John Boehner is making all the right moves, opening the door to compromise but making it clear that the major mandate the GOP possesses is to fix the problems that originated in Democratic profligacy. Marco Rubio’s victory speech was dead on — the GOP didn’t get a resounding endorsement, it got probation. The next two years will decide whether this probation is eligible for early termination or whether the Elephant goes back into solitary confinement.

On a state level, I sincerely hope that Rick Snyder’s election signifies a change of tone within the state GOP. Michigan is an easy win for Republicans who carry the Reagan Democrat banner, so the state party’s decade-long push for hardcore conservative candidates has been simply wrong-headed, and prior election results proved it. Don’t misunderstand; I want a solid conservative victory. But when the state still has strong UAW membership, conservatism must be taught, not imposed by fiat. The Michigan Republicans have not been up to the educational task these last few years. Ron Weiser’s tenure as chairman has been better, but the whole enterprise still feels a bit inbred and tone-deaf.

Nowhere does the dysfunction of Michigan Republicans play out more clearly than in Kent County. Access is circumscribed unless you have a membership to an Ada country club, or so it seems. There is something significant that this cycle, my three phone calls and emails to the county GOP never merited even a form response, yet both Hoekstra’s primary and Snyder’s gubernatorial campaigns eagerly contacted me to help. This is a sharp contrast to my experiences in Kalamazoo County, where a friend and I were eagerly welcomed into the Executive Committee during our undergrad days as officers at the WMU College Republicans, and my brief stay in Ottawa County, where the chairman asked me to coordinate youth activities for the county party. There are too many big-name, big-dollar fish in Kent County to turn it into anything other than an exclusive club, and that’s a damned shame. As long as the Kent County GOP remains the preserve of the elite, opportunities to expand the Republican message will surely be missed.

Of course, navel gazing gets us only so far. The midterm results suggest a few points worth considering:

  1. Republicans should keep in mind that this election was a referendum on Democratic incompetence and over-reach, and not a rousing endorsement of  a specifically Republican platform. Rubio is right: The GOP is on probation, and public-opinion polling supports this perspective.
  2. America is a center-right country. The ideals of the Tea Party resonate strongly with a disaffected mass in the center and right. Republicans should take care to incorporate Tea Party ideas — which, in fairness, are overwhelmingly conservative principles — into the GOP governing paradigm. Why? To avoid a third-party challenge in 2012 that would almost certainly restore the Democrats to power. We cannot risk a second Obama term because we couldn’t stop the next Ross Perot from grabbing a chunk of the disaffected electorate.
  3. The GOP owns Michigan. We must not fail in effecting the transition from a manufacturing economy. Snyder is saying the right things about innovation. We must work very hard to deliver on his promises if we want Michigan’s electoral votes credit the GOP presidential nominee in 2012. In particular, we need a new message to help bring rank-and-file union members back into the GOP.
  4. Republicans across the board need to do a much better job at candidate recruiting, starting at the local level. Justin Amash, the newly elected Congressman from the 3rd District, is a great example of the worst possible candidate earning the nomination. State Sen. Bill Hardiman and Kent County leader Steve Heacock split the “adult” vote in the primary, leaving Amash — a 30-something bomb-thrower who had his state House seat purchased for him by his parents — grabbing the nomination. But Amash, besides his lack of qualification, doesn’t speak to the tenor of Kent County. Amash would fit better in a solidly Republican district; I fear that in coming years, this seat will become vulnerable to takeover by a center-right (instead of far-right) candidate. I hope the Congressman-Elect will pay careful attention to why Ehlers, Henry and Ford did so well here, and why Kent County is not a solidly red county. And don’t get me started on Christine O’Donnell, Joe Miller and Sharron Angle.
  5. Republicans at all level, while retaining their humility about their probationary status, must also govern like conservatives. Center-left candidates were tossed out on their asses all across America. Although some compromise will doubtless be necessary from a purely political standpoint, Republicans simply cannot tax, spend and lobby their way to indolence like they did earlier this decade.

The next two years will be interesting.