The day after the state Board of Canvassers officially ruled that U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Waterford, White Lake, Highland, Milford, Commerce, Wolverine Lake, Walled, Wixom) could not appear on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot, Republican kingpins from Oakland and Wayne counties on Thursday, June 7 threw their support behind a familiar face in state and Oakland County politics to run as a GOP write-in candidate for the new 11th Congressional District seat.
The GOP — nervous that a relative political unknown, Kerry Bentivolio of Milford, could win the party’s nomination and subsequently lose the safely conservative seat in the Nov. 6 general election — backed former state Sen. Nancy Cassis, a Novi Republican, for a write-in bid for the new U.S. House of Representatives district that includes Waterford, West Bloomfield, White Lake, Commerce, Wolverine Lake, Walled Lake, Wixom, Milford, White Lake, and Highland.
Cassis, term-limited out of the state Senate in 2010, represented for eight years the district currently served by state Sen. Mike Kowall (R-White Lake, Commerce, Highland, Milford, Walled Lake, Wixom, Wolverine Lake, Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield).
She had also mulled a run for governor in 2005.
“She has no negatives and she has passion and good name recognition,” said Jim Theinel, chairman of the Oakland County Republican Party, adding that the tab for the race party officials expected to cost “virtually nothing” with McCotter on the ballot is about to balloon.
Bentivolio’s campaign took some umbrage with party leaders’ decision to back a write-in candidate.
“We respect everyone’s right to run, but what we don’t appreciate is when a group of 10 to 15 career politicians and operatives anoint a candidate to run against a solid conservative who is already on the ballot,” said Bob Dindoffer, Bentivolio’s campaign manager.
McCotter’s failure to submit enough valid registered voter signatures last month to qualify for the primary election ballot left most observers, Republicans and Democrats alike, scratching their heads over the development that has lead to Bentivolio — a teacher and Vietnam and Iraq veteran with Tea Party support — becoming the only 11th Congressional District GOP candidate on the primary ballot.
“While I respect the person who is on the ballot, there was no choice in the Republican primary now that McCotter has left,” Cassis said.
Her political career began as councilwoman for the city of Novi between 1985 and 1993, and she served a second stint on the council from 1995 to 1996, when she joined the state House of Representatives. She served in the state House until being elected to the Senate in 2002.
She said she plans to use about $200,000 of her own money for the write-in campaign, a move that she said “shows your strong commitment and dedication to it,” adding that there is “an absolute urgency” to educate the voters of the 11th Congressional District about her campaign.
Absentee ballots “are going to be going out in a couple weeks and we are preparing to certainly identify all those absentee voters and let them know once again who Nancy is and do a write-in,” she said.
None of the developments over the last few weeks have left a good taste in the GOP’s mouth. McCotter, now effectively a pariah in Republican circles with just a few months left in his congressional term, made a presidential bid last year and is a frequent guest on cable news shows.
He won’t mount an independent campaign for Congress after he back-pedaled on a previously planned effort to mount an effort as a write-in candidate against Bentivolio.
In the meantime, Dindoffer said fund-raising for Bentivolio has “picked up” because of increased media exposure.
“Awareness continues to grow and Kerry Bentivolio has renewed opportunities to spread his message of limited government, government accountability, and transparency.”
Some have painted some of Bentivolio’s stances on a variety of issues as too extreme, allegations that Dindoffer dismissed.
“That’s absurd,” he said. “There are people who are interested in this who are trying to mischaracterize the candidate and his positions. We don’t think they should be doing that.”
McCotter’s team had turned in just 244 of the required 1,000 registered voter signatures to appear on the primary ballot. Some of those had been photocopied. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office is investigating the matter. McCotter has accepted responsibility for the error and from the beginning of the development requested the investigation that remains ongoing.
Former state Sen. Loren Bennett of Canton announced earlier this month that he would be running as a Republican write-in candidate for the 11th Congressional District, but he dropped out of contention last week after Cassis had been tapped as the party’s preferred write-in candidate.
Other names bandied about during the lead-up to selecting Cassis included Rocky Raczkowski and Paul Welday, both of whom ran in 2010 for the Republican Party’s nomination against U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Orchard Lake, Waterford, West Bloomfield), who is now running in the new 14th Congressional District against a host of other Democrats for the seat that represents West Bloomfield Township and Orchard Lake, among many others in Oakland and Wayne counties.
Kowall had been planning to run for the 11th Congressional District seat last year but bowed out of the race. He said in recent weeks that he won’t make a bid for the seat as a write-in candidate.
Dr. Syed Taj, a Canton Township Democrat, and Bill Roberts, a self-described “LaRouche Democrat,” are in the battle for the Democratic Party’s nomination for the new 11th Congressional District seat, which carries a two-year term that pays $174,000 annually.