2006-08-19 / Columnists

Michigan Politics

Couple of Moderate Joes Ousted in Primary
By George Weeks

Out East and in the Midwest, a couple of moderate Joes on Capitol Hill took it on the chin last week from extremes of their parties.

The primary defeat of Representative Joe Schwarz (R-Battle Creek) at the hand of the hard right was not as major a national story as the hard left's defeat of Senator Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut). But there were national implications to Schwarz's loss.

The Wall Street Journal, in a Tuesday Tea Leaves editorial that incorrectly tagged Schwarz as "a big spender," noted that the Michigan election marked the first time that the anti-tax Club for Growth, believed to have spent about $1 million to support opponent Tim Walberg, has defeated a Republican in a primary after several tries.

Schwarz told the Associated Press: "I look at this election as probably a victory for right-tolife, anti-abortion, anti-embryonic stem cell groups, but it's a net loss for the Republican Party because it just pushes the party farther to the right."

Ex-Governor Bill Milliken, a moderate soul mate, was encouraged by Schwarz' comments that he is "too competitive" to quit politics and "there will be more elections." Milliken said, "he is the kind of thoughtful, intelligent and committed person we need in public office."

Schwarz, a former state senator, had the support of President George W. Bush, exGovernor John Engler, and the Michigan GOP. But he proved too moderate for the district when pitted against a conservative challenger who had big bucks from afar.

As for Lieberman, founder Al From of the Democratic Leadership Council (early members were then-Governors Jim Blanchard of Michigan and Bill Clinton of Arkansas) said the left should "stop trying to purify our party with venomous attacks on pro-defense Democrats like Lieberman and California Representative Jane Harman, who survived their attacks in her primary this spring."

Harman is ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee chaired by Representative Pete Hoekstra (RHolland).

Dresch: A Special Breed

Of all the lawmakers I have known in Lansing, the most memorable, certainly per capita, have been from the Upper Peninsula. Among them: such long timers as combative Senator Joe Mack, who did high visibility battle with the Department of Natural Resources and environmentalists; Representative Dominic Jacobetti, an appropriations czar with enormous power; and, going back decades ago when I started covering the Capitol, Representative Jimmy Goulette, who had an Iron Mountain mink ranch and wore trademark mink bow ties.

I thought of the U.P.'s unique lawmakers upon learning of the death from lung cancer in Hancock of exRepresentative Stephen Dresch, who - like Goulette and current Representative Tom Casperson of Escanaba - was a Republican from a land not noted for dispatching Republicans to Lansing.

Dresch, who made an unsuccessful 1992 stab at the

1st Congressional seat won that year by Bart Stupak (DMenominee), was a Michigan Technological University dean and brainy fellow who after public service was a forensic analyst involved in many a high profile case.

Representative Rich Brown (D-Bessemer), who has the seat once held by Dresch, told the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette: "He was a fighter for the folks he felt had been wronged by the government...he never wavered in his desire to make the things he felt were wrong right."

As the Detroit Free Press headlined: "U.P.'s eccentric lawmaker lived to right wrongs."

Good epitaph for a good man.

Another Mackinac Melee?

Every so often, there's a fuss over gubernatorial appointment to the seven-member Mackinac Island State Park Commission - a plum, especially for downstaters. There's a nifty East Bluff cottage where commissioners can stay.

The latest flap is that the Mackinaw City Village Council has voiced opposition to Governor Jennifer Granholm's appointment of Father Jim Williams, a Catholic priest in St. Ignace and Moran but a resident of Mackinaw City, as the Mackinaw City representative on the commission.

Apart from the fuss over whether Williams can be a true representative of Mackinaw City (required by a 1958 law because of the park's fort in the city), there's an issue of whether Williams is a Democrat - as Republicans contend - or an independent, as most recently described by Granholm's office.

No more than four of the seven members can be of one political party. If indeed Williams, appointed to replace Republican Audrey Jaggi, is a Democrat, that's the limit.

Mackinaw City Village Council President Robert Heilman, according to The Town Crier, while praising Father Williams as a person, called his appointment "a slap in the face of the community," because Heilman contends the community was not consulted beforehand.

The residency issue may not be enough to zap his confirmation in the GOP-ruled Senate. But there are Republicans who want the Senate to pin Williams down on whether he is a Democrat as originally reported, or an independent.

Confess, Father.

George Weeks recently retired after 22 years as political columnist for The Detroit News. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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