With local units of government still reeling from the effects of the 2008 financial collapse and the dismal Michigan economic climate in the years leading up to it and since then, it only adds insult to injury that they are being forced to absorb the $650,000 price tag officials estimate the Sept. 5 special primary election will cost in the wake of former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s political downfall. Oakland County officials are now rightfully asking that the state reimburse the municipalities in the congressional district for the costs of the special election, and we urge the state to fulfill that request.
The scope of the petition signature debacle that lead to McCotter’s resignation from the U.S. House of Representatives abruptly and selfishly last month has finally been made public after an investigation that was triggered by staff in Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s Office noticing red flags — and kudos are owed to her and her vigilant team — in the petition signature filings.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, in a press conference last week in which he blasted the former five-term congressman for being “asleep at the switch” while the signature charade was going on, announced felony and misdemeanor charges against four members of McCotter’s Livonia congressional office staff for their alleged roles in falsifying petitions and petition signatures to get the quirky Republican on the Tuesday, Aug. 7 primary election ballot.
That was only the most recent development in an embarrassing 10-week soap opera instigated by the petition signature problem McCotter revealed shortly following the May 15 candidate filing deadline. First McCotter said he would be a write-in candidate. Then, within a few days, he decided he wouldn’t. Then local media reported a script for a tawdry television series pilot that the failed presidential candidate was working on in the aftermath of his short-lived bid for the White House.
A bitter battle between the local GOP establishment and the Tea Party wing of the GOP revealed a gaping fissure between the party powerplayers and the conservative foot soldiers, with the Tea Party winning the day in the Aug. 7 primary election with the nomination of Milford Republican Kerry Bentivolio — the only Republican name on the ballot — over former state senator Nancy Cassis of Novi, whom the GOP kingmakers tapped to mount a write-in campaign against the man her team dubbed “Krazy Kerry.”
Two days after the dust settled from the primary election, Schuette revealed a laundry list of charges against McCotter’s aides: Election fraud forgery, conspiracy to commit a legal act in an illegal manner, and falsely signing a nominating petition as circulators.
That is not the coda here, though, and one won’t be coming for some time. We’ll wait to see what else is revealed in the trials of the four former staffers, but right now something is much more pressing on the minds of local officials — namely, how to scrape together $650,000 to pay for a special primary election to fill McCotter’s seat for the remaining weeks of his current unexpired term. And will they get that money back? We hope they do.
Part of the estimated price tag for the special primary election includes the expenses for hiring additional election staff and, according to Oakland County Clerk/Register of Deeds Bill Bullard, Jr., in a letter he fired off to Gov. Rick Snyder, “additional equipment because much of the equipment will be sealed from the August primary election and not available for use on Sept. 5.”
Admittedly, non-binding resolutions like the one under consideration by the Oakland County Board of Commissioners seeking state reimbursement of the special election costs have the legal authority of, say, a humidifier. Yet we hope the state takes the one currently being considered — as well as Bullard’s missive — with more than just a grain of salt.
Although local officials are unclear about whether existing state law allows for the state to reimburse them for the costs of the special election, they say that if it is not permissible under current statute, lawmakers should get to work on crafting legislation that would allow for such a reimbursement. That’s a good call.
With the Sept. 5 special primary election set in stone — featuring Cassis and Bentivolio, as well as Livonia Republicans Kenneth Crider, Carolyn Kavanagh, and Steve King vying for the GOP nomination — state officials need to do right by the people and representatives of the current 11th Congressional District, which represents a portion of Waterford, White Lake, Highland, Milford, Commerce, Wolverine Lake, Walled Lake, and Wixom in the lakes area.
Schuette said himself that voters in the 11th District got “stiffed” in the fiasco. He’s absolutely right. But we hope the state — which finally has a budget surplus after years of ballooning deficits — will do its part to help rectify that disservice by footing the bill for the election to fill the balance of McCotter’s term.
That means state officials need to get on the task of determining if such a reimbursement can happen under current law. If so, it needs to happen. If it isn’t legal under Michigan law, Oakland and Wayne county lawmakers need to get to work on making it so. The locals need the help, otherwise they would effectively be punished in the pocketbook for a disastrous political scheme of which they had no part.