Michigan joined the national anti-establishment chorus Tuesday as voters swept out incumbents and rewarded political outsiders.
The headliner was GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Snyder, a political neophyte and businessman in the Mitt Romney mold. In a wild, nasty, four-man race against conservative GOP veterans — U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, state attorney general Mike Cox, and former U.S. Senate candidate Mick Bouchard — Snyder openly disavowed the party’s base, refused major endorsements, spent $6 million of his own money, and recruited moderate Democrats in the open primary while promising to “fix Michigan’s broken government.” His three competitors split the base and Snyder waltzed to a ten-point win.
On the Democratic side, by contrast, Virg Bernero lashed himself to the party’s Big Labor dinosaur and destroyed his pro-business, labor-reformist opponent: Michigan house speaker Andy Dillon. Bernero’s narrow, far-left base appears to be no match for ex–Gateway Computer CEO Snyder’s hi-tech, organized juggernaut.
Evidence of the electorate’s tea-party-fed mood was most evident in congressional races where Ron Paul double Justin Amash and Afghan War vet Rocky Raczkowski rolled to big wins over establishment opponents.
MichiganView.com writer Dan Calabrese says Amash’s win in Grand Rapids “was like a nuclear bomb going off. He won because the people of this district — and I’m talking about the Republicans — have awoken from a slumber [to the nation’s] growing fiscal problem. And when the establishment told them to send [another] clone to Washington to deliver more of the same, the voters said no way.”
Not even Detroit royalty was spared. The self-described Kennedys of Detroit lost their final officeholder — U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick — as voters decided that even the mother of convicted ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was too many Kilpatricks on the public payroll.
Michigan’s roar against the political class bodes well for November. Republicans are in the catbird’s seat to take back two, perhaps three, congressional districts as well as a swing-state governor’s mansion.
— Henry Payne is editor of the Michigan View and editorial cartoonist for the Detroit News.