Looks like Michigan congressman Thad McCotter caught the Bob Dornan Disease — named after the fiery California congressman who waged a quixotic bid for the White House in 1996 only to neglect tending the home fences and lose his reelection bid.
The difference is that McCotter, an endearing, quirky fellow who mixes references to rock music and obscure philosophers into his speeches, didn’t even make the ballot for his congressional seat after he abandoned his brief 2012 White House bid. Either through sheer incompetence or fraud, his staff last month turned in hundreds of invalid signatures copied from previous submissions made in other campaign years. McCotter had barely a fifth of the number of the 1,000 valid signatures he needed to get on the ballot. He briefly considered mounting a write-in campaign for the nomination, but on Saturday, as Bob Costa noted, he announced he was leaving Congress to cooperate with the investigation into his bogus signatures.
“To those who [are] unhappy at this news, I’m sorry; to those happy at this news, you’re welcome,” the five-term congressman said in a statement Saturday.
McCotter’s departure leaves only one candidate on the GOP ballot in the overwhelmingly GOP district in the Detroit suburbs. He is a 60-year-old high-school teacher and former auto-design engineer named Kerry Bentivolio. A tea-party supporter and former veteran who has participated in three wars, Bentivolio says he wants to promote limited government. Sounds like the kind of citizen legislator the country needs.
But GOP party bosses are already plotting to coalesce around a candidate who can beat Bentivolio as a write-in.
“Just because he [Bentivolio] caught lightning in the bottle, doesn’t mean he’s some constitutional scholar overnight and he’s earned this ability to be the Republican nominee,” said Rocky Raczkowski, who ran for a neighboring congressional seat last year but lost to incumbent Democrat Gary Peters. He and other party stalwarts are being talked about as potential write-in contenders
Fair enough, but it strikes me that much of the opposition to Bentivolio is simply due to the fact that he came out of nowhere and isn’t controlled by anyone. His opponents are already making disparaging remarks that Bentivolio has a side business raising reindeer and sometimes plays Santa at Christmas events. It’s up to Bentivolio to raise enough money, demonstrate a knowledge of issues, and assemble a qualified enough staff to prove his critics wrong.
Cooler-headed Republicans just hope the party divisiveness doesn’t get so bad that it leaves an opening for Democrats. While the district is traditionally Republican, Barack Obama won it with 50 percent of the vote in 2008. That means the likely Democratic candidate Syed Taj, a physician, would have an outside shot.
Taj has his own problems, though. Bill Roberts, a Lyndon LaRouche Democrat who wants to impeach President Obama, has also made the ballot in the Democratic primary. Taj calls Roberts a “fake Democrat” but openly worries that his unusual name may give Roberts an advantage in a low-profile primary.