Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mark, Stay in the Senate

(Cross-posted from "To Play the King" at

I’ve been giving more thought to the recent news that state Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer (D-Battle Creek) is considering entering the primary for the nomination against U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg. The more I think about it, the less I like it. Here’s why:

Mark, you were elected to lead our party in the Senate for the next four years. That’s where we need you. The governor has laid out an ambitious plan to rescue our state from an economic depression. The other side holds the majority in the Senate and is more interested in obstructing and pandering than getting the job done. We need to hold their feet to the fire until they help approve the necessary revenues to get the job done, and after that to make sure they don’t succeed in obstructing good policies. The pressure applied by the governor’s office, public opinion and Schauer is finally yielding results. Bishop acknowledged today that a tax increase is “inevitable.” That’s progress.

We expect our legislative leaders to do two things: 1) speak for the caucus and make sure the group votes together, 2) lay the groundwork, do the fundraising and campaigning to gain/retain a majority in the next election.

So far, Schauer has done a respectable job in the first area. We also need him there for the second one. We need to retake the Senate in 2010. It is essential that we have control of legislative and congressional redistricting, and we need the Senate to do that.

To retake the Senate, we have a good shot in 2010, if someone can lead us there. At 17-21, we are only two seats away from gaining control (with a Democratic lieutenant governor breaking the tie). But we make this achievement much less likely if our leader is absent from his post when he should be leading the charge.Why do I say this? Let’s look at how House Democrats languished in the minority until they had a leader who put her ambitions aside.

At a 52-58 disadvantage in 2001, the House Dems elected Kwame Kilpatrick as their leader. But by year’s end he was gone after a successful run for mayor of Detroit. As his mid-term replacement, they chose Buzz Thomas. But instead of focusing his efforts on returning the House Democrats to majority, Thomas (like Kilpatrick) had other plans. He was running for the Senate and gaining a House Democratic majority fell a few places on his to-do list. What was the result? In 2002, Democrats lost another three seats, falling to a 61-49 disadvantage, their worst working arrangement since the Great Depression.

How could this happen? Simple. House Democratic leaders weren’t focused on getting a majority.But after 2002 along came Dianne Byrum as House Democratic leader. Other than seeking reelection to the House (which wasn't in question), she remained focused on helping her caucus. In 2004, under Byrum’s leadership, they retook those the three seats they lost in 2002, bringing themselves back to three seats shy of majority, 52-58. Byrum was term limited in 2006, yet continued to lead the Democrats campaign efforts. With a well-coordinated effort in 2006, Byrum’s work yielded success: a three-seat majority, the first time in 10 years Democrats controlled either legislative chamber.

Now, consider what Schauer would have to do as a congressional candidate: Fly out to Washington all the time for endorsement meetings, strategy meetings and fundraisers. He’d also be driving all over the rural seven-county district, leaving a lot of Senate Democratic business unattended to. In other words: With the Democrats rudderless, Senate Republicans would haveno check on their power and our efforts to retake the majority would fail again.

From another angle: If Schauer had the good fortune to win, a special election would be held, most likely to be won by a Republican (they get their people to the polls in low-turnout elections). We’d be back to a 16-22 disadvantage, now three seats short of a majority (assuming there’s a Democratic lieutenant governor).

We need good Democratic leadership in the Senate. We need to help the governor get her agenda through. We need to get back more seats. We need to keep the out-of-control Republicans in check. To do that, we need not unstable and distracted leadership, but stable and focused leadership.

Mark, I’m not saying you’d be a bad congressman, I just think we need you to “right” the ship that is the Senate. Help us now, and we’ll remember that down the line when it’s time for Congress.

UPDATE by Fitzy: And, a welcome to the newest Walberg Watch blogger, Francis Pepper! As the comments have shown thus far, I have no doubt his posts will spark some great discussions!

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I guess his decision will boil down to four things:

1) the extent of his ambition

2) how much he cares about this state

3) how dedicated he is to fulfilling his commitment


4) the difference between the perks he'd receive as a federal congressperson as opposed to the "measly" benefits he's receiving now. (like, you know, maybe $165,200 isn't enough?)
"Bishop acknowledged today that a tax increase is “inevitable.” That’s progress."

Since when is a tax increase "progress?"
I disagree that the seat will most likely turn to republican hands. There are two credible democratic state reps. in the senate district: Mike Simpson and Martin Griffin.
Implicit in this analysis is that these offices, State Senate and Congress, are roughly equal in importance -- they are not. I would much rather do everything we can to maintain a congressional majority -- like defeating Walberg, than having one additional seat in the minority State Senate.

If you care about the war in Iraq, national health insurance or global warming Congress is where the action is.
You've got your timing off on the Senate Democratic Caucus elections. No State Senate seats are up in 2008. The entire State Senate is up in 2010. Schauer would not be running for Congress at the same time the Senate is up. If Schauer beats Walberg, Senate Democrats would pick a new leader who would be in charge for the 2010 elections. If Schauer looses he goes back the the State Senate as leader and runs the 2010 races.
I've got some serious questions about this post. First, you're implying that Schauer is the only person in the Senate Democratic Caucus that can stand up to Bishop or get anything done. Sure, he is a great leader, but the caucus is 17 members strong and they've all held firm to progressive principles on the budget, and everything else.

Also, I don't think anyone who has ever been around or worked with Mark Schauer has any doubt that he has more energy and is more dedicated to his job than anyone. To assume that all of a sudden if he decides to run he won't be effective is quite a jump. I don't think he'd even consider something like this if he thought his job performance, his caucus, or his constituents would somehow suffer.

Finally, for a post about getting rid of Walberg, why would we spend so much time questioning and frankly 'concern-trolling' our own potential candidates? If Schauer is such a great public servant, has shown his commitment to our ideals, and decides he is willing to take on this important challenge, shouldn't we focus more on how great it would be to knock out Walberg? There are enough sites like Right Michigan, etc that spew the conservative message about our side without us 'giving aid to the enemy.'

Just my two cents...
This comment has been removed by the author.
"I guess his decision will boil down to four things:

1) the extent of his ambition

2) how much he cares about this state

3) how dedicated he is to fulfilling his commitment


4) the difference between the perks he'd receive as a federal congressperson as opposed to the "measly" benefits he's receiving now. (like, you know, maybe $165,200 isn't enough?)"

This is utter bullshit, written by someone who knows nothing about Mark Schauer.
Who is this guy Pepper? Is is me or did he get real active only after Schauer started to talk about running. And then all of a sudden he's posting like an expert on Michigan Democratic politics??? It smells a little fishy to me. Maybe I'm wrong, but I'd sure like to know more about his motivations.
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