Apr 29, 2007

The race for Livingston County’s two term limited House seats begins

Although the primary election for the Michigan House is still 16 months away, the jockeying the seats has already begun with both of Livingston County’s two House seats term-limited in 2008

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus is reporting Republican County Commissioner Steve Williams, 45, is running for the 66th District seat that will be vacated by Chris Ward, R-Brighton. The district includes the townships of Brighton, Genoa, Marion and Oceola, and the city of Brighton in Livingston County and Milford Township in neighboring Oakland County.

Williams has only been on the board since January 2005, but this will be his third attempt at the 66th District seat. He nearly unseated incumbent Rep. Judy Scranton as an unknown in the Republican primary in 2000, losing by only 721 votes. He ran again in 2002 when the seat was open because of term limits, but he dropped out before the primary when the military intelligence officer was recalled to active duty.

Williams is very conservative, and he really played on that in his race against Scranton, a rare moderate Republican and an even more rare pro-choice Republican. It’s rare in Republican-dominated Livingston County that a Republican incumbent is challenged, and Williams is the only one I can recall in the past seven years.

It’s ironic that when Ward, then the chair of the Livingston County Republican Party, ran for the open seat in 2002 there was not even a primary challenge for the seat, knowing that a primary win almost guaranteed a general election win. Some quality candidates began falling out of the race as the primary approached, including Williams, Rick Chrysler – the son of former U.S. Congressman Dick Chrysler - and former Brighton Mayor Kate Lawrence. What we got were six years of questionable ethics.

When Williams first ran for the seat, the 66th District included almost all of Livingston County. A few townships in the western part of the county were in the 67th District then held by Republican Paul DeWeese. But following the population growth in the fastest growing county in the state and the gerrymandering by the GOP, a new seat was carved out of Livingston County. Instead of making the two districts a logical east/west split of the county which most people already identified with Republicans carved out the 47 District seat by illogically cutting a big C in the county with the inside of the C being the 66th District.

When the 47th District was created, we saw a six-person primary that had a few well-known candidates that peoples knew, such as Hartland Township Supervisor Greg Bogdanski, Hamburg Township Supervisor Howard Dillman, Chair of the County Board of Commissioners Dave Domas, Daily Press & Argus editor Buddy Moorehouse, John Sheppard and Joe Hune. The unknown Hune won the primary by just two votes over Domas.

This goes back to the question of why an incumbent is never challenged in this county like they are in other places where one party dominates. Domas was well respected and able to work with a wide-range of people, and in a county that offers very little services he actually implemented a discount prescription drug program. Despite losing by a mere two votes and Hune’s very thin legislative record, Hune has never been challenged in the primary.

At this point, Williams is the only candidate that has publicly announced his intention to run, and he is the only person even rumored to be considering a run to date.


Republican Michigander said...

I've heard four others that may consider a run for Ward's spot. I've heard four names also for Joe's spot. Whether they actually run or not I don't know.

There has been primary challenges since 2000, but those were low key and did not have much of a chance to succeed. Barton Hellmuth against Garcia is the first to come to mind. I think Garcia had another challenger in 02.

I'm in rare agreement with you about the C. I don't understand why they put Hamburg in the 47th and Oceola/Marion both in the 66th. I heard the district was created for Brighton Mayor Kate Lawrence, but that still doesn't make sense since about 1/3 of Hamburg is the Brighton area.

Communications guru said...

I’m not in the GOP loop like you, so I have not heard of anyone else running for the seat. You are right about Bart Hellmuth, but that’s the only one I can remember. To me it seemed like a token challenge. Clearly, a lack of a primary challenge in Livingston County is a disservice to the voters.

I agree, I have no idea why they created that ridiculous district, but I seriously doubt the Legislature would create a district just for one person, unless it was an incumbent, maybe. They didn’t do as much for then Rep. Valde Garcia, and they essentially made him a carpetbagger.

Frank said...

Lackof any real opportunities to get a message out is a real problem in challanging an incumbant. I dont see the press coverage or public interest in local politics- I think this is really a disservice to the residents. I live in the 47th district and do not feel that I have adequate representation.

At age 23, with no real life experience to draw upon, what can Hune do for me other than simply vote the party line 100% of the time? I dont think that he is earning his pay, he is simply a tool for the GOP.