2008-07-26 / Columnists

Seeking To Keep Term-Limited Seats in the Family

Michigan Politics
By George Weeks

Family ties abound in the August 5 primaries for the State House of Representatives, a house decimated because 44 of its 110 members are term-limited.

In Macomb County, the son of Representative Jack Brandenburg (R-Harrison) is the sole Republican to compete against eight Democrats. A cousin of Representative Daniel Acciavatti (R-Chesterfield) is among four GOP candidates for his seat, and the eight Democrats include a son of ex-Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh.

(Cavanagh, like Kelly/Kelley, has been a potent political name in Lansing over the decades. Ex- Chief Justice Mike Cavanagh has been on the Michigan Supreme Court since 1983, and two Kavanaghs spanned the 1950s- 80s on the high court.)

In Wayne County, the son of term-limited Representative Philip LaJoy (R-Canton) seeks dad's seat.

Detroit's Hood brothers long reigned in the state House before term limits, and now there's the twilight of term-limited Representative Morris Hood III (DDetroit).

The wife of Representative Glenn Steil Jr. (R-Grand Rapids) seeks his seat, and a woman in White Lake seeks the one once held by her husband.

Michigan's most notable allin the-family tie on Capitol Hill is about 75 years of Dingells in the U.S. House. Representative John Dingell (D-Dearborn), 82, is the House dean, having been elected in 1955 to fill the vacant seat of his deceased father.

Up North, before Republican Bill Milliken of Traverse City became Michigan's longestserving governor (14 years), he was a state senator in essentially the same seat earlier held by his father and grandfather.

Now in the same region comes another member of a prominent Republican family, running in a high-visibility 101st House race that has been proclaimed a "toss-up" by Inside Michigan Politics newsletter.

Mike McManus of Lake Leelanau, longtime educator and fourth-generation cherry farmer who is brother of popular ex- Senator George McManus of Traverse City and father of Senator Michelle McManus of Lake Leelanau, is among Republicans seeking to replace termlimited Representative David Palsrok (R-Manistee).

The sole Democrat is environmental lawyer Dan Scripps of Leland, former staffer for the Leelanau Conservancy. He gave Palsrok a scare in 2006 and is touted by Dems as a northern hope to help them expand their 58-52 House majority.

Also running for the House is Midland Republican Jim Stamas, brother of Senator Tony Stamas, same party, same town.

State Representative Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba) knows about fighting family ties. In 2002, he defeated Menominee Mayor Laurie Stupak, wife of U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak, to win the 108th District state House seat. Now he seeks the GOP nomination for what will be an uphill battle against Congressman Stupak.

The 38 state Senate seats are not up this year.

But far too many House members are being ousted by term limits. As noted in the Detroit News by Craig Ruff of Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants, a nonpartisan public policy think tank, the ousting of 10 key committee chairs and top leaders of each party amounts to "the toppling of tall timber of the House."

Great Lakes Drilling

In his recent presidential campaign blitz on energy, which included stops in Michigan, Republican John McCain called for offshore drilling for oil and gas.

But he wisely excludes drilling

in the Great Lakes, including slant, or directional, drilling from shoreline rigs.

Russ Harding, former director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality who is now with the conservative Mackinac Center in Midland, has called for removing the federal and state prohibitions on such drilling.

In response to my request for McCain's position, campaign spokesperson Leah Yoon said McCain's call for drilling "does not apply to the Great Lakes." She e-mailed this statement:

"John McCain is against lifting the federal ban because:

"• The Great Lakes are the world's largest system of fresh water; the lakes themselves store nearly one-fifth of the world's surface freshwater.

"• Water from the Great Lakes is used for residential, farming, industrial, and energy production purposes. These uses account for approximately 18% of the total daily U.S. use of fresh water.

"• Canada currently has no restrictions on drilling in the Great Lakes. However, over 100 years of drilling in Ontario [bordering the Great Lakes] has yielded about 85 million barrels.

"• The importance of this fresh water versus the small amounts of oil it likely contains are not worth lifting the ban."

Furthermore, she said, nothing in his proposal for energy exploration "should be construed as proposing to open new areas up to drilling over the expressed objections of the local stakeholders."

Harding faces a tough sell with the Michigan congressional delegation. U.S. Representative Dave Camp (R-Midland), reached Friday by phone as he drove to an appearance in Kalkaska, said Great Lakes drilling presents "very different circumstances. There's a much greater risk" in dealing with fresh water and the land use issues involved.

He said McCain's offshore proposal deals "with huge, vast resources," while the more limited potential in the Great Lakes would not be worth the risk.

He's got that right.

George Weeks retired in 2006 after 22 years as political columnist for The Detroit News. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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