Nov 7, 2007

MSU students form PAC to help moderate candidates across state

The conventional wisdom is that to win a primary election you must appeal to the voter base, but all too often that leaves moderates of both major political parties out in the cold. Michigan State University senior Eric Gregory wants to change that.

He has formed the Mainstream Michigan Political Action Committee (PAC) with his former campaign manager and fellow MSU student, Derek Dobies, to help shape the debate in Lansing and all around the state and to help progressive and moderate candidates who may not have name recognition or a lot of money get elected to state and local offices.

Gregory said that in his home county of Oakland – as well as other predominately Republican and Democratic counties -- the real race is in the primary. And to win the primary, candidates often have to be extremely right or left to defeat candidates from the same party.

“All too often the people in the middle get left out, even if they are Republicans or Democrats,” he said. “We feel it’s our job to try and look at those in the middle.”

Gregory, 21, has been very involved in politics both as a student at MSU’s James Madison College where he is studying political theory and constitutional democracy and as a candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives for the 41st District that includes Troy and Clawson. He ran for the open seat last November, but he lost to a candidate with more name recognition in Oakland County, Republican Marty Knollenberg, who captured 58 percent of the vote.

“What really opened my eyes is that a lot of people are getting elected who are not responsive to their constituents,” Gregory said. “I want to continue to have an effect by helping good people get elected.”

Although the PAC plans on raising money for candidates, Gregory expects the PAC's real contribution to come in the form of directing volunteers to campaigns. He already worked on some local municipal campaigns, such as Maureen Brosnan for mayor of Livonia, Dayne Walling for mayor of Flint and Kevin Hrit for Troy City Council.

The results the first time out for the PAC were not great, however. All three candidates were unsuccessful in Tuesday's election. But Gregory and Dobies were not discouraged with the results of the start-up venture.

“We just filed as an independent PAC, so we will be raising money,” Gregory said. “What we really want to do is encourage college students to volunteer on campaigns.”

Gregory said he not only wants to attract the political science majors who routinely volunteer for campaigns, but he wants to attract students who are also interested in setting policy, who may be science majors, finance majors or from other fields of study. The PAC is not only seeking those students interested in policy as volunteers but as potential candidates.

“A lot of students are really interested in policy, but they get turned off by the rancor of partisan politics,” he said.

Gregory said he has no immediate plans to run for office anytime soon, and his current plans are to go to law school following graduation. He drew national attention last year when he was the focal point of an Associated Press article about young people running for political office. Producers at the “Montel Williams Show” read it and invited him to be a guest on the show in New York.

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