Wednesday, September 05, 2007

My Conversation With Mark Schauer

Last Thursday, I spoke with Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, a candidate for the Democratic nomination in Michigan's 7th District. Below is a transcript of that conversation.

I tried to be fair in my questions and, hopefully, gave him an opportunity to share his views on his candidacy and important issues for the district. There are plenty of other things I could have asked about, of course, and hopefully you and I will get a chance to ask him more questions between now and the primary. Many of the questions were inspired by questions submitted by Walberg Watch readers, if not asked word-for-word.

I've tried to be as accurate as possible in my transcript, even including some of my own mistakes (like when I sort of implied that Tim Walberg actually cares about the health care costs of his constituents... I really didn't think I said that, but apparently I did). I'd like to thank Senator Schauer once again for taking the time to speak with me, and I look forward to speaking with him again, as well as Sharon Renier and Jim Berryman.

And remember, this interview took place before Ken Brock's controversial comments made were printed.

My conversation with Mark Schauer:

Fitzy: Well, Senator Schauer, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with me, I really appreciate it. It’s not that often that blogs get serious attention.


Schauer: I’m hoping that this is, uh… you know, you’re going to be a part of the national mix here.

Fitzy: Well, thank you. Your entry into the race came as a surprise to a lot of us, as you’d previously said you’d stay in the state Senate. I’m just curious, what changed and why run now?

Schauer: It was really a series of factors. I mean, frankly, there’s been a consistent wave of encouragement from people within the district to look at this, really starting after Walberg beat Joe Schwarz in the primary in 2006. And, you know, I’ve earned a reputation over my career in public service, in Calhoun County and over the last five years in Jackson County of being someone who’s very diligent, very passionate, very dedicated about fighting for his constituents and his community and so I’ve developed a lot of support. You know, people have been urging me for years to, uh… asking me when I am going to Washington. And so, that continued and I made a professional and personal decision that I was going to continue my fight in the legislature and work to solve the state’s problems from here. Part of it was also a personal decision. Frankly, my wife and I didn’t feel we were ready to make the sacrifice that it would take, not just for this kind of grueling campaign, but putting ourselves in a situation where I would be gone from home so much, you know, having a commuting relationship between Washington and Battle Creek. So it was a personal decision as well. But as the encouragement continued, Walberg began to perform in Washington and the results were even worse than I could’ve ever expected. You know, I just watched him vote against the interests of the 7th Congressional District, vote in ways that are just polar opposites of my values, and things that I’ve fought for over my career, like health care for children, Head Start, minimum wage, and his stubborn approach on the war in Iraq, just so many, vote after vote. So I watched his record accumulate and frankly, one of the things that really got my attention was when he took credit in the press for a couple of transportation projects in the district and didn’t tell the public that he voted against the bill itself. I just, frankly, got to the point where I couldn’t continue to say no. The other factor was, as I’ve met with the other candidates getting in the race, they’ve had a chance to be out there and raise money, I think there’s just a question of whether any of the could put it together in a way where they could unseat an incumbent. One of the reasons why I’ve received such strong encouragement even after other folks have been in the race is I have a history of knocking off incumbents or winning in tough Republican districts, so it just got to the point where, frankly, I couldn’t stand on the sidelines any longer. The other important part of this whole decision-making process is, Michigan is struggling right now, it has been for some time, and one of the reasons that its been struggling is we haven’t had help from Washington. Policy decisions made at the federal level have tremendous bearing on our ability to solve our problems here in Michigan. I made the decision that one, I could have a significant impact on behalf of our state, and, just, from a public service standpoint…

Fitzy: You described it as a “wave of encouragement.” Can you name some of the more prominent people that urged you to join the race?

Schauer: Ah, no, I’m not going to name names, it was just individuals that were constantly stopping me, they might have been solicited by one of the other Democrats in the field and they were saying, “Mark, are you sure you’re not running,” “Mark, you’re the strongest candidate, you can beat Tim Walberg.” It’s just been sort of people at all levels, but the people that’ve been most important to me in listening to this were the people in the Seventh. So, no, I don’t think I can really single any one person out, it wasn’t, like, a heavy-weight that said “Mark, we need you to get in,” it really wasn’t that at all, it was really sort of a drumbeat of…


Fitzy: You said that some people told you they thought you would be the strongest candidate and there’s been mentions of polling data that apparently shows you leading Congressman Walberg. Can you tell me anything more about who conducted the poll and what some of the details were?

Schauer: Can you hang on for just one second? I’m sorry…


Schauer: I’m sorry, your question was about the polling? Yeah, I know that there have been a number of things reported. I will say that we wanted to, you know, take a look at the district and do some research, but my decision wasn’t based on polling. My decision is based on my passion for serving this district, my passion for being a change agent in Washington for this district and our state. I mean, my passion was for the fact that the incumbent has been worse than I ever could have imagined. When I was saying no, not that I had any hope that Walberg would have a very high batting average, Walberg has been, you know, has got a thousand percent average with George W. Bush. I mean, my passion for this has just been, coupled with my passion for public service, has been that there’s, you know, Tim Walberg has just been George W. Bush’s most reliable rubber stamp in the US Congress. We knew he was extreme, but it’s just been amazing to see how out-of-step with the district he is. So, I know from my history as a hard-nosed campaigner, a hard-working candidate, a proven fundraiser, that I’m definitely going to be the strongest candidate, I expect that I’ll be the Democratic nominee, and I’m sure that that’s Tim Walberg’s worst nightmare.

Fitzy: Comparing you and Congressman Walberg’s record, I’m just curious to find out some of the things that you would do in Washington. He has consistently voted against timelines for withdrawal from Iraq, he’s criticized the Democratic leadership as having a “plan to surrender” and things like that. On that issue, what do you think would be the proper course to take?

Schauer: Well, I agree with Carl Levin, who really has been an incredible leader on this issue, that we need a change in policy. The Bush Administration has created a mess in Iraq. We need to be clear that by changing policy and beginning to withdraw troops, that doesn’t mean that it’s gonna be easy going in Iraq. It’s gonna be very difficult. But what I know is that a policy of staying the course and further long-term involvement of our troops in Iraq is not the answer, and I think will make things worse over a longer period of time. I would expect to be part of a Congress that will change policy, begin to reduce our military involvement in Iraq. I’m not going to commit to a specific timetable, but clearly we need to begin to reduce our military presence in Iraq and allow that to country to rebuild itself…

Fitzy: Now, Congressman Walberg has been vocal on a number of other issues as well, and one of them is health care, health care costs, and he talks about that as being a frequent complaint around the district. I’m just curious to know what you’d like to see done.

Schauer: Let me just say one other thing about Iraq, if I could. Thanks to the Senate Republicans, I’m on record on the war in Iraq. Senator Cropsey sponsored a resolution just before President Bush went into Iraq that asked the Michigan Senate to support President Bush’s strategy on Iraq, and I was a no vote on that resolution, so, Tim Walberg and I already have a difference that the voters can point to. Now, on health care, is there a specific question on health care costs?

Fitzy: Well, like, Congressman Walberg, he’s voted against allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug prices, he’s voted against reauthorizing…

Schauer: Right, voted against SCHIP. Yeah, it’s just amazing to me. Those votes are bad enough. I was told by a reporter that interviewed him that interviewed him that Tim Walberg had said that he actually was opposed to having a Medicare prescription drug benefit. It’s just mind-boggling to me that we would have someone who would oppose senior citizens having a basic prescription drug benefit when prescriptions are becoming, or have become, an essential part of health care. You know, for Tim Walberg to side with the pharmaceutical companies, just another rubber-stamp vote for George W. Bush, it clearly shows that he’s more interested in helping the drug companies than providing an affordable benefit for his constituents. The SCHIP vote, you know, is very disappointing. I’ve actually fought to have the SCHIP, the MICHILD program as we call it in Michigan, to allow some parents to become eligible for MICHILD as well. I think that’s, you could hardly find a more fundamental difference between Tim Walberg and I on that basic healthcare question. All children should have health care benefits, period, and Tim Walberg is against that. That’s one of the reasons I’m running.

Fitzy: If I could ask about a couple of other issues as well. Nick Smith, Joe Schwarz, and now Tim Walberg have all served on the House Agriculture Committee, and agriculture is important to this district and the country as a whole. I’m curious what you believe are the greatest challenges facing America’s farmers right now.

Schauer: Well, I think, clearly finding a way to be profitable. I’m very concerned about family farms being able to make a living, support their families, provide a safe food supply here. We can’t outsource our food production. That’s frankly a national security issue. We’ve seen that from the experience of China, in terms of imports of food products here. That’s a real concern, that we have sustainable agriculture in Michigan that can produce a reasonable profit. We’re in a new dynamic now, we have opportunities for biofuels, that could break our dependence on foreign oil, that creates another problem on the price side as it affects animal feed and so forth, livestock feed, so that’s something we’re gonna have to deal with as well. I think that creates, hopefully, will continue to create, some economic opportunities for farmers, but we have to balance the production of crops for biofuel versus crops for the food supply.

Fitzy: On another issue, Tim Walberg has been calling himself an environmentalist at some town hall meetings…

Schauer: [chuckle]

Fitzy: …even though his record doesn’t always show it, and I’m just curious how you feel about the leading environmental issues of the day and how you might differ from Congressman Walberg on global warming, or drilling in ANWR, and other issues.

Schauer: Right, well, I see him talking about wanting to be energy independent, and I guess what he means is allowing drilling in the Great Lakes. I couldn’t disagree with him more on Great Lakes drilling, we have to protect the Great Lakes, we have to protect our water supply here in the Great Lakes basin, and in Michigan. I view Tim Walberg as just another friend of the special interests, including oil companies. I certainly don’t see him as a credible champion for energy independence. Global warming is a personal passion and priority for me, and one of the reasons I’m running is to create federal policies that help Michigan foster economic opportunities in renewable fuels, alternative fuels, and high-tech technology related to these opportunities.

Fitzy: A moment ago, you mentioned Walberg special interest groups, and that immediately made me think of the Club for Growth—

Schauer: The what? I’m sorry.

Fitzy: The Club for Growth

Schauer: Oh, Club for Growth! [laughter]

Fitzy: … and the affect that had on the last campaign and, um, Walberg’s hard anti-tax stance, and I’m just curious where you stand on tax issues. Would you be willing to support a tax increase he wouldn’t to fund a program or decrease the deficit?

Schauer: Well, it looks to me that Club for Growth is getting what they paid for. Tim Walberg has a hundred percent voting record with Club for Growth. Since I started my career in public service, I’ve refused to take no-tax pledges, I have to evaluate each situation independently. Here at this very moment, we’re struggling with a structural state budget crisis, and I think what we need in Washington is someone that is willing to exhibit some common sense, someone that is willing to engage in solutions that can strengthen our country, strengthen our state, strengthen our region. Tim Walberg’s blind allegiance to Club for Growth and their extreme agenda is doing nothing to help the people of the Seventh Congressional District.

Fitzy: I’m just curious, what do you think could be done by the federal government to help Michigan and strengthen the country as a whole?

Schauer: Well, I think, the first thing, certainly, is to develop an economic agenda that supports the transition of Michigan’s manufacturing economy. Michigan will have vibrant manufacturing, but it’s in a state of transition, and there are fundamental things that have hurt Michigan’s manufacturing sector, and those go directly to trade policies or lack of enforcement of current trade agreements, lack of any coherence in health policy in this country, and those are all things that can help Michigan’s manufacturing sector, but we need help, more help, on the training and re-training side for Michigan workers, we need help for the fast development of high-tech, alternative technologies here in Michigan. We have more automotive research and development jobs than the rest of the country combined, and we could use help from Washington in taking advantage of that brainpower and human capital. Whether it’s defense-related technology or alternative energy technology, life sciences technology, those are all areas where we could use support at the federal level.

Fitzy: You might not know this, but I asked for questions from Walberg Watch readers before this, and one person asked, essentially, is there anything you think Tim Walberg is doing right?

Schauer: [laughter] Ah, geez… um… you know, I do see him occasionally in the district, and that’s a good thing. That’s one thing that comes to mind, I would say. However, how he has treated the district in terms of trying to convince them that he’s been fighting for them in Washington, and going back to the example of items in the Transportation bill, taking credit for them, and implying that he supported them while actually voting against them. He’s [inaudible]

Fitzy: I’m also curious, in the coming months, with your current position as Minority Leader in the Senate, how do you plan to balance those responsibilities with the coming campaign?

Schauer: I’m gonna have to be an excellent time manager, and work a little harder, and also rely on the talented members of my caucus who were cheering me on to take on this fight.

Fitzy: What kind of a campaign can we expect to see in the coming months? Do have anything specifc planned already, or…

Schauer: I’m beginning to reach out to communities that are new to me. For example, last night I attended the Western Washtenaw County Democratic Club meeting. I was able to speak and say hello to a very large and enthusiastic crowd and so I’m gonna be doing outreach around the district. Obviously I’m spending a lot of time raising money. That would be a top priority in order to have the resources to take out an incumbent.

Fitzy: Well, I have one last question, which I hope to ask everybody that’s running. In short, why would you like to represent the district in Congress?

Schauer: Well, it really goes back to my passion for public service. I started out my career in public service in the non-profit sector, helping children and families, and became a city commissioner. I’ve been in the state legislature for now 11 years and I have always seen the importance of federal policies and federal support to the issues and people that I care about. Michigan needs change in Washington, frankly this country needs change in Washington. I’m passionate and enthusiastic about doing that and I want to fight for the people and issues and communities that I care about.

(Thanks to my technical adviser, Jimmy, who helped set up the recording system that made this transcript possible.)

Labels: , , , ,

Mark's a little vague on the polling question, eh, Fitzy? Was there a legit poll conducted or not? I'm sure some curious minds on this blog would love to know.

Other than that, Fitz, the interview was very good--from both sides of the microphone.
He seems so fake
I thought this was great:

"Schauer: Let me just say one other thing about Iraq, if I could. Thanks to the Senate Republicans, I’m on record on the war in Iraq. Senator Cropsey sponsored a resolution just before President Bush went into Iraq that asked the Michigan Senate to support President Bush’s strategy on Iraq, and I was a no vote on that resolution, so, Tim Walberg and I already have a difference that the voters can point to."

Hindsight is always 20/20, but I love that he had the foresight to vote against this disastrous war when just about everyone else was cheering for it.

Great interview, Fitzy!
I agree with the first commenter, both the questions and responses were great.
I too would like the polling issue resolved. He danced around that question like a bad simile in my head. (That did not make sense to me either, but neither does our tolerance for politicians who spin and avoid questions.)

Mr. Schauer, I am not 4 years old. If you ignore our question, which appears to have you caught in a lie, it only reiforces the idea that you are a liar. Owning up to a situation, (everywhere it seems but the world of politics) is the right thing to do.

Show us your poll. Tell us who does your polls. Tell us something about your poll. How did Jim Berryman do in your poll? Joe Schwarz? Sharon Renier? Prove it exists or we will continue to believe you are lying.

We are not going to coronate you the nominee just yet. You got some splainin to do.
Damn, this guy loves himself. Mark Hearts Mark 4-Ever.
That sounds like a good way for him to end his legislative career...being beaten by a conservative Republican. GO WALBERG!!
Hey joe sylvester, good to see you back here where the action is. It must be boring over on your website, now that you are deleting posts which challenge your views.

Hey, I did look at your "new" layout. One thing I noticed was that Walberg's website is no longer advertised on your site. Did you accidentally omit it or did they request you pull it down?
3 Things that Will Die on this Website Unless I Remind You All:

1) Did Mark Schauer really have a poll or was he pulling a "Walberg" and just making it up?

2) Should our young Jewish children reconsider their ambition to become Members of Congress based on Ken Brock's astute political assesment of the 7th congressional district?

3) Did Walberg request the Michigan Conservate Dossier pull his advertisement on that site or did they choose to end their association with him because he stopped paying the bill?
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