Who can save Michigan? It’s certainly not Rep. Mark Schauer (D), who won his last election on the Obama wave in 2008 and has done virtually nothing since to enhance the lives of his constituents.
Schauer voted for Obamacare, sponsored cap-and-trade and sponsored card check legislation, despite Michigan’s staggering 14 percent unemployment. And despite being a member of the Agriculture Committee, has done nothing to move the ball forward on agricultural policies that might throw a bone to the 7th district’s abundance of agricultural employers.
Unfortunately, Mark Schauer also has over $1.5 million in the bank to run his re-election campaign this November. That’s an impressive war chest in Michigan’s expensive media market, and three times more than his closest GOP opponent, Tim Walberg. Walberg served one term in the United States Congress before being defeated by Schauer by two percentage points in 2008. But he doesn't plan to let the seat get away from him this time. "It’s always easier to run on a good record than cover a bad record with a lot of money," said Walberg, who is leading Schauer by 10 percentage points in the polls. "My record is the absolute nightmare for Mark Schauer."
Walberg must first defeat Brian Rooney, an Iraq combat veteran, in the GOP primary. Rooney moved to the district after living nearby, and is pushing a bid based on his ability to identify with military veterans. The 7th District, says Rooney, is made up of 40% military or retired military families.
"Being a lifetime politician is not going to be to your benefit this time around," Rooney said of Walberg. "I looked at myself as a citizen-soldier when I was in the Marine Corps, and if I get the opportunity to go to D.C., I want to be a citizen-legislator."
Whoever wins the primary will have a fun-filled race against Schauer, who, like many other vulnerable incumbents this cycle, made himself even more vulnerable over his lack of responsiveness to the tea party crowd. After holding numerous town hall events throughout the course of his term, Schauer decided that he would communicate with his constituents via telephone town halls during the August recess – right when everyone wanted to hold a big public event.
"To me, that showed contempt for his constituents that was part and parcel to this elitist attitude from D.C. when you're in Congress, you either have to stand and deliver or stand and receive," said Rooney.
Both Rooney and Walberg accused Schauer of abusing his position of power, a narrative that fits with Schauer’s infamous quote soon after the health care vote was taken. Schauer called the vote "exciting, dramatic and emotional" – not exactly something you want to hear coming from a man who is convinced he’s changing his nation’s health care system for the better.
"I think he's decied he is going to plant himself on the liberal side and hope they can carry him through like they did last [election]," said Rooney. "That’s just not going to work."