As we have over the past few weeks in this space, we once again present our advice to lakes area voters — at least those who are looking for advice, as we know not all of them are — this time in several contested candidate races impacting the 11 lakes area communities. If you’ve already determined how you will cast your ballot at the Nov. 6 general election polls, there’s no need to read further.
Given the great number of contested races on west Oakland ballots this year, and the large field of candidates in some of those races, we are not able to provide endorsements in every race to be decided by west end voters on Nov. 6. However, below you’ll find our endorsement in some of the more competitive and compelling contests that will be decided in less than a week.
Elsewhere in today’s edition, readers will find coverage of some of the races on next week’s local ballots. Go to our website at www.spinalcolumnonline.com through election day, Nov. 6, for additional postings on more races for elected offices — and be sure to vote on Nov. 6.
11TH U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
(Waterford, West Bloomfield, White Lake, Commerce, Wolverine Lake, Walled Lake, Wixom, Milford, White Lake, Highland)
Dr. Syed Taj, a Canton Township Democrat, has inherited a dicey political situation in which his opponent, Milford Republican Kerry Bentivolio, was until May thought to be a dark horse candidate with no real shot at winning against former U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter.
Fast-forward to the week before the Nov. 6 general election. McCotter is toast, and voters in the strongly conservative 11th Congressional District are forced to pick between a Democrat who supports universal health care and a Republican whose spotty record, at best, makes us leery. Also couple that with Bentivolio being largely sequestered from the media, virtually unwilling to field reporters’ questions, and you have a recipe that leads us to support Taj.
Taj’s political resume may be thin — he’s a first-term member of the Canton Township Board of Trustees — but Bentivolio’s is much thinner. But Taj, in an interview this summer, brought with him a willingness to work with Republicans and a sense of civic duty we found refreshing.
He’s fluent on the issues and can address them — as a doctor, particularly our flawed health care system — with ease. We’re confident he would be a good advocate for the 11th District in Washington, D.C., which is more than we can say about Bentivolio, who even establishment members of his own party view as too extreme.
11TH U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
(Waterford, White Lake, Highland, Milford, Commerce, Wolverine Lake, Walled, Wixom)
Likewise in the 11th Congressional District special general election — which will fill the remainder of McCotter’s term until Jan. 2, 2013 — we’re recommending voters tap David A. Curson, a Belleville Democrat.
14TH U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
(West Bloomfield, Orchard Lake)
There’s no question in our minds that U.S. Rep. Gary Peters (D-Orchard Lake, Waterford, West Bloomfield) has earned another term in the U.S. House of Representatives. A former state lawmaker and state lottery official, Peters has proven himself to be an effective voice for Oakland County since he was first elected in 2008.
Peters brings to the table not only legislative experience, but also the willingness to work with the other side of the aisle during a time when Congress is as fractured and partisan as we can remember. A vocal auto industry supporter, Peters is the right choice for lakes area voters.
29TH STATE HOUSE DISTRICT
A former county commissioner, state Rep. Tim Greimel (D-Auburn Hills) was elected to a partial term in the state House of Representatives after the resignation of Tim Melton. Greimel brings to the equation not only his nine months of experience in Lansing, but also several years on the county Board of Commissioners, giving him the legislative and policy experience needed to be an effective leader.
Although a solidly Democratic district, the 29th does represent the Republican stronghold of Orchard Lake. Greimel has in the past, however, shown a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner with the GOP during his time on the county board.
Greimel is the man for the job.
38TH STATE HOUSE DISTRICT
Voters in the 38th state House District face a choice between state Rep. Hugh Crawford (R-Walled Lake, Wixom), the chairman of the state House Regulatory Reform Committee, and a perennial Democratic candidate who, frankly, gave scant, one-sentence responses to our questions.
Crawford, a former county commissioner who is seeking his third and final term in the state House, is the easy choice on Nov. 6.
39TH STATE HOUSE DISTRICT
(West Bloomfield, Commerce, Wixom, Wolverine Lake)
Republican newcomer Klint Kesto and Democrat Pam Jackson are squaring off in the Nov. 6 general election for the right to represent the new 39th state House District. Although we admire Jackson and think she brings solid qualifications to the race, Kesto, an assistant prosecutor, is the best bet for this Republican-leaning district.
Both candidates have similar stances on job creation in Michigan by advocating making it easier for businesses to survive and thrive, but Jackson’s significant focus on mass transit — a laudable goal, but one that simply isn’t financially in the cards for the state or region at this point in time — was a negative.
Kesto seems to have the policy chops and experience to represent the 39th District the best at this point, but we hope to see Jackson again during future election cycles. She’s thrown her hat into the ring many times over the past several years, and we’re confident she will eventually find a race with an opponent she can easily best.
40TH STATE HOUSE DISTRICT
Bloomfield Hills City Commissioner Michael McCready faced a tough four-way Republican primary election for the 40th state House District seat and now is up against a West Bloomfield Township Democrat on Tuesday, Nov. 6. McCready has solid municipal experience, giving him a leg up over his Democratic opponent who, while certainly involved in the community, doesn’t have the direct governing experience that McCready has.
We’re comfortable supporting McCready, and residents in the 40th District should be, too.
43RD STATE HOUSE DISTRICT
It was an easy decision to support state Rep. Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield) over her Democratic opponent in the Nov. 6 general election. Haines brings to the table four years of service in Lansing, even if we did disagree on some of her policy stances — which is more than we can say about her Democratic challenger, who first ran against her as a Republican two years ago and, when he lost handily, unsuccessfully and quixotically attempted to recall her from office for a variety of reasons that should serve as no basis for a recall.
Haines has been a key voice in the health care debate as chairwoman of the state House Health Policy Committee and a strong ally of veterans with a variety of bills she has proposed in the state’s lower legislative chamber.
She’s more than earned the right to serve another two years in the state House.
44TH STATE HOUSE DISTRICT
(White Lake, Waterford, Highland, Milford)
State Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake, Highland) faces a little-known Democratic challenger and a Libertarian candidate in the Nov. 6 general election. While we were disappointed a few times this term with some of her votes — on redistricting legislation (and her apparent role in shepherding that fiasco through) and others — she has been an effective, capable lawmaker since coming to Lansing from the county Board of Commissioners in 2008.
She is the author of numerous pieces of legislation enacted into state law, showing that she has enough legislative muscle to get the job done. In addition, she has been an advocate against unfunded mandates and other things that have riled us in the past.
Kowall should serve a third and final term in the state House.
OAKLAND COUNTY EXECUTIVE
Vote for one
Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson has been the county’s chief executive for two decades. Since he was first elected, he has overseen a county undergoing significant changes and steered it through an economic tsunami the likes of which no one could have foreseen. When all is said and done, Patterson has earned another four-year term — even though his Democratic challenger, Kevin Howley, is one of the most intellectually formidable that we can remember.
The county was not immune to the Great Recession as it still suffered painful consequences of the economic collapse. Jobs were lost. Property values sank into an abyss. Revenues plummeted. Yet, remarkably, the county made it through relatively unscathed. That, in large part, is due to Patterson and his leadership — and that of his whip-smart team.
Oakland County voters would be doing themselves a disservice to jeopardize that. Although we’ve come to know Howley as a good man who is more than capable of doing the job, and has some outside-the-box ideas to boot, Patterson has been the captain of a prize-winning team that is continually looked at across the state and nation as beacon of sound leadership.
Patterson deserves another four-year term. As the saying goes, if it isn’t broken, why fix it?
OAKLAND COUNTY PROSECUTOR
Vote for one
Facing an upstart former lawmaker from Rochester Hills, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper has run a largely effective Prosecutor’s Office that has made some significant strides in helping bring to justice murderers in decades-old cold cases. While we’ve not been thrilled with everything Cooper has done, we see no reason to switch gears at this point.
Cooper, a former judge, has taken a bit of flack for what her Republican opponent says is a decimated morale in the Prosecutor’s Office. However, that’s a card that virtually everyone looking to become the county prosecutor plays; we’ve heard that countless times, and rarely does anyone provide concrete evidence to back it up. For that matter, there’s hardly an office in the land — in either the public or private sectors — that doesn’t have morale issues.
We’ve heard no substantiated claims of a low morale among assistant prosecutors; until we do, it’ll merely be hearsay.
Voters should head to the polls next week and tap Cooper for a second term.
OAKLAND COUNTY SHERIFF
Vote for one
In a case of deja vu, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard is up against the same Democrat who challenged him in the 2008 general election. Bouchard, who oversees 1,200 employees and manages an annual budget of over $140 million, was first appointed as Oakland County sheriff in 1999 and has been elected every four years since. He is someone we’ve seen as an effective, competent leader who deserves another term as the county’s top law enforcement official.
The former state Senate majority floor leader, Bouchard would bring back to the table significant law enforcement and legislative experience. A former police officer of 25 years who sponsored the legislation that put into place the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, Bouchard has the chops in a number of key areas to continue serving capably as Oakland County sheriff.
Voters should have no qualms backing him for another four-year term.
OAKLAND COUNTY CLERK/REGISTER OF DEEDS
Vote for one
Appointed to the position following Ruth Johnson’s election as Michigan Secretary of State in 2010, county Clerk/Register of Deeds Bill Bullard, Jr., a Highland Township Republican, is squaring off with state Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield, Commerce, Wolverine Lake). Although Brown is qualified to do the job, voters should re-elect Bullard, the former chairman of the county Board of Commissioners and a former state lawmaker, to a four-year term as the county’s top elections official.
Bullard has been making strides in increasing the use of technology in the Clerk/Register of Deeds Office, and has been a sound advocate for Oakland County in a number of areas. While Brown has some legitimate beefs about Bullard sending out a mailer using taxpayer money in the weeks leading up to the election — while not illegal, we’re still not fans of that type of thing — we don’t feel that rises to the level of an offense that should result in his ouster.
Both Brown and Bullard are qualified public servants, and we were abhorred at the way Brown was muzzled on the state House floor this summer during a debate about an abortion bill. But Bullard, who wasn’t part of that GOP goon-squad, has earned his keep as county clerk.
Vote for Bullard on Nov. 6.
OAKLAND COUNTY WATER RESOURCES COMMISSIONER
Vote for one
County Water Resources Commissioner John P. McCulloch faces county Commissioner Jim Nash (D-Farmington Hills) in the Nov. 6 general election. McCulloch brings to the job years of experience and a wealth of institutional memory that can’t be beat. He’s been instrumental in a bevy of local and regional water-related issues and battles, and regularly travels abroad to learn about and cull the newest in water technology. He deserves voters’ support on Nov. 6, and another four-year term.
A former state lawmaker and county commissioner, McCulloch is well-versed on virtually anything impacting water quality in Oakland County — something that’s particularly important to residents of the lakes area. While Nash also would bring a sound skill set to the position, you can bet your bippy that he would be seeking another term on the county board had it not been ridiculously redistricted in 2011 after the passage of a controversial state law.
McCulloch is clearly the best bet. He’s gone to bat for Oakland County time and time again when it comes to bring some semblance of sanity to the Detroit water and sewer systems. That alone earns him another stint as the water resources commissioner.
OAKLAND COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
Incumbent positions (Vote for five)
Let’s call a spade a spade. The two rogue assistant attorneys general vying for Circuit Court bench seats against five respected jurists this year are gutless, hiding cozily behind over $2 million in advertising from groups that conveniently — a hearty, sarcastic thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court for its Citizens United ruling, by the way — don’t have to disclose their donors.
So perhaps the easiest decision Oakland County voters should make this election year is to keep Leo Bowman, Denise Langford Morris, Phyllis McMillen, Wendy Potts, and Michael Warren on the Circuit Court bench. All five — who were appointed by governors of varying political ideologies and bring over a half-century of judicial experience to Oakland County — deserve six-year terms.
We’ve counted two — one, two — media interviews the pair of challengers has granted since we first reported on the funding propping up their campaigns. We’ve, on this very page, raised many questions that neither candidate thinks are worth answering on what they know about the anonymous funding going to two groups hell-bent on, for whatever ridiculous or inconceivable reason, getting involved in a metro Detroit court race.
It’s been called “unprecedented” and a “national anomaly” — and that’s just in the last two days. This smacks of cloak-and-daggerism, a wink-and-nod ploy to stack a Circuit Court bench. In other words, an effort to buy judges.
Let’s not let that happen. Bowman, Langford Morris, McMillen, Potts, and Warren have the experience, legal bona fides and skills, and — yes, to borrow their campaigns’ word — integrity. Voters should resoundingly support them on Nov. 6.
51ST DISTRICT COURT
(Vote for one)
Voters have a choice between Judge Jodi Debbrecht and a former assistant county prosecutor — whose prosecutorial record has been called into question for her handling of a sexual abuse case that was dismissed due to lack of evidence — for the 51st District Court bench. Debbrecht, appointed by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm after current Circuit Court Judge Phyllis McMillen was tapped for her current position, has earned a six-year term on the 51st District Court, which serves Waterford Township.
We know of no concrete reason why Debbrecht shouldn’t serve on the bench. Frankly, it seems as though the only attacks against Debbrecht — who has been a fair judge taking on a leadership and advocacy role in the community — stem from the fact that she was appointed by a Democratic governor, not a Republican.
Remember, these are non-partisan races, folks; if a judge does the job competently and fairly, there’s no reason to oust them, save for cases of personal or professional misconduct.
There are no such allegations — at least none with any shred of credibility — surrounding Debbrecht. She should earn a full term on Nov. 6.
5TH COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS DISTRICT
(Waterford, West Bloomfield)
Don’t be confused by the fact that two “John Scotts” will appear on the Nov. 6 general election ballot. The incumbent John A. Scott, the Republican county commissioner first elected in 2002 — not John Charles Scott, the independent candidate charged in a voter fraud scheme earlier this month — is the right choice for voters in the 5th Board of Commissioners District.
Commissioner Scott has been a strong advocate for his constituents, and has been a voice of reason among the 25-member board. A staunch opponent of new or increased taxes, Scott takes stands on principle — even when that means ruffling the feathers of some in his own party members. We hope that continues.
It would be a shame for the county to lose his voice on the Board of Commissioners, especially if that came at the hands of someone now facing a misdemeanor charge for election fraud in a silly, sophomoric scheme to apparently siphon votes away from him and tip the scales in favor of the Democratic candidate.
Vote for incumbent Commissioner John A. Scott on Nov. 6.
COMMERCE TOWNSHIP CLERK
(Vote for one)
It’s not very often that someone on the ballot is telling his constituents to vote for someone else, but that’s what Commerce Township Clerk Dan Munro is doing since, if elected on Nov. 6, he plans on resigning from the post and recommending the appointment of Janet Bushey to the position. That leaves us with an easy decision: Vote for Janet Bushey on Tuesday.
Bushey comes to the fray with significant government experience in Commerce Township and knows the inner workings of the township well. Voting for her, rather than Munro, the incumbent, would eliminate any possible tiffs among the township board over an appointment after Munro resigns if elected.
Supporting Bushey at the polls on Nov. 6 is the right thing to do.
HIGHLAND TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR
(Vote for one)
Republican Rick Hamill and Democrat Doug Bourgeois are vying for a four-year term as the township’s chief executive. Although both men would make sound successors to retiring township Supervisor Triscia Pilchowski, Hamill has the upper hand in the race based on having more direct municipal experience.
In a refreshing twist, both men share a mutual respect for one another, saying that no matter who is elected, it’s a “win-win” for Highland. Both also said they would help the other in their new position as supervisor if they didn’t win. Kudos to both men for bringing a sense of civility and respect to the political arena.
Hamill brings with him years of experience serving Highland in a number of capacities, and advocates for a better working relationship with the business community while also maintaining the character of the township.
He’s the best bet on Nov. 6.
MILFORD TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR
(Vote for one)
While independent challenger Jim Crane brings to the equation a fairly remarkable resume that includes a variety of experiences, we see no reason why incumbent township Supervisor Don Green shouldn’t get the nod from Milford Township voters.
Having been in the job for over a decade, Green has been a sound leader for the township while also working closely with Milford Village officials in a slew of areas. A no-nonsense leader who has a proven track record of success, Green is the man for the job.
WATERFORD TOWNSHIP CLERK
(Vote for one)
Republican Sue Camilleri and Democrat Teresa Fortino are squaring off in the Nov. 6 general election for the right to serve a four-year term as the township’s clerk. Though a difficult decision, voters should go with Camilleri.
Camilleri would come to the job with significant experience in Township Hall, where she has worked for 16 years. She also showed a bit more extensive knowledge of the issues the township is facing.
However, it should be noted that Fortino, we feel, would do a fine job in the clerk position. We’ve heard from numerous people that she’s cut from the same cloth as her mother, long-time Waterford clerk Betty Fortino, who passed away in 2011, and we don’t doubt that. We know this endorsement of Camilleri will anger many in the community, but we’re sticking with that decision.
WATERFORD TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR
(Vote for one)
Waterford Township Supervisor Carl Solden, who has served in that capacity since 2000, has earned another four-year term as the township’s chief executive.
On Nov. 6, he faces Republican Gary Wall, a business owner with significant experience. But Wall admitted in an interview that he doesn’t view himself as being “more qualified” than Solden, which makes the decision relatively easy for us — and it should for voters, too.
Don’t get us wrong — Wall has the capabilities and skill sets to be a successful supervisor in Waterford, and we were genuinely impressed with the civility the two men showed toward each other in a candidate interview.
But with Solden, there is no proverbial learning curve. He’s been doing the job for a dozen years, and another four years are in order for the former police officer of 32 years.
WEST BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP SUPERVISOR
(Vote for one)
If you want to talk about a conundrum, this would be the very definition of it. On the one hand, you have an incumbent township supervisor in Michele Economou Ureste, who has for four years been the leader of a township Board of Trustees rife with tension and political squabbling. On the other hand, you have a former township supervisor, David Flaisher, who was the leader of a township Board of Trustees also rife with tension and political squabbling.
While we suspect that neither are or were the direct source of the farce that is otherwise known as West Bloomfield Board of Trustees amiability and civility, the buck stops or stopped with both of them. It was their job to put an end to it; neither did.
So with that, and while Flaisher indicated he’s mended ties with the Republicans on the board during his tenure, we cannot bring ourselves to endorse either candidate in this race.
It’s not like it’s a total loss. Both have done the job, so there is no learning curve needed — at least not when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the job. Board relations management, however, is an entirely different story.
Sorry. Lots of luck to you, West Bloomfield voters.