What was set to be an uneventful re-coronation of 5 term U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter during Michigan's August 7th primary has suddenly become a competitive race between a political outsider and a last minute write-in candidacy vetted by the Republican party establishment. This, after a bizarre case of ballot signature fraud.
State Board of Canvassers booted McCotter off the primary ballot last Wednesday after the Secretary of State determined that of the 1,800 signatures submitted by his campaign only 244 were valid. The remaining signatures were forgeries, some having been photocopied several times. State Attorney General Bill Schuette is investigating the matter for possible criminal charges.
Democrats Syed Taj of Canton and William Roberts of Redford Township did collect the 1,000 signatures needed to appear on the ballot. The only remaining ballot-qualified Republican in Michigan's 11th district race is Kerry Bentivolio from Milford.
One would think that Bentivolio, a war vet, former school teacher and Ron Paul Republican who has some traction with Tea Party supporters would be a shoo-in for a district with a 57 percent Republican base, but state GOP leaders are scrambling to put together a write-in campaign to seat a more establishment-friendly candidate – former state Sen. Nancy Cassis.
Why the establishment settled on Cassis most likely had to do with her pledge to spend $200,000 of her own dollars plus $80,000 lying dormant in an old campaign fund to convince upper-middle class suburbanites in Oakland and Wayne Counties to not only write-in her name on the August ballot but to check a box as well.
“It’s a two-step process, and we’ll be educating people to do that,” Cassis said of her slightly uphill battle.
The mainstream media is buoying these efforts with dismissive (if not derogatory) descriptions of Cassis' competition. According to the AP, Michiganders get to choose between a pair of long-shot Democrats, one of whom is a Lyndon Larouche admirer, and a high school teacher who “has never held office and is best known in his village for dressing as Santa Claus and riding a sleigh pulled by the reindeer he raises.”
Cassis, on the other hand, has held office; so much so that she was term-limited out of her state Senate seat after representing her hometown of Novi and about one-third of the newly redrawn 11th. According to the Observer & Eccentric, Cassis said her platform would be based on “restoring economic prosperity, ensuring a strong military defense, reducing government intervention in our lives, supporting private enterprise and small business.”
Bentivolio, who has a background in auto design and home building wants those things too, but failed to gain the support of his party because of what some higher-ups have called extreme priorities. For instance, Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson -- one of the Republican party leaders who interviewed Cassis' last Thursday -- said Bentivolio's foreign policy views are “dangerous.” They happen to be just as “dangerous” as well as popular (among independents and Democrats at least) as Ron Paul's.
In response to a questionnaire for the non-profit political advocacy group Campaign for Liberty, Bentivolio said he wants to immediately pull out of Afghanistan and close all U.S. bases on foreign soil. Interestingly, while none of Bentivolio's GOP detractors have served in the military during a time of war, the 60 year-old Bentivolio soldiered in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars and served for 20 years in the Michigan National Guard.
On the domestic policy front, Bentivolio says he would have opposed the federal bail outs of Chrysler and GM and would vote to repeal the entire Patriot Act. Does this platform ring a bell?
Naturally, the shunning of his campaign by party leaders has made Bentivolio indignant while possibly strengthening his position with the district's large Tea Party base. In a campaign fundraising letter issued last week, Bentivolio spoke out against the “party bosses” and the “career politician” they've chosen to pit against him.
“It is unfortunate that rather than unite behind the only Republican on the ballot, they have chosen to try to manipulate the process,” he said.
Earlier this week, the two candidates attended a tea Party event in Plymouth. Bentivolio was greeted warmly by a familiar crowd that rallied behind many points in his stump speech. The exuberance of the 100 plus crowd reached a fevered pitch when Bentivolio held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution and called it the “owners manual.” He promised to introduce term limit legislation, saying he would voluntarily leave office after three terms. The crowd was also very receptive of his pledge to post explanations for his votes online like Republican U.S. Rep. Justin Amash from Cascade Township.
Cassis had little fanfare at the event. She used her 15 minute speaking time to cultivate an image as a “tax cutter” and a “fiscal hawk” while attempting to reassure the crowd that she is “really not someone who is an establishment candidate.”
That McCotter, the heretofore House Republican Policy Committee chairman, might have to witness his former congressional seat (a seat that represents presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's old stomping grounds) go to a non-interventionist, "liberty loving" candidate is a sign of the times.