Michigan to pay for McCotter meltdown

Nightmare spurs costly ‘special’ elections; hopeful asks foe not to run

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The abrupt resignation of five-term Republican Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter has created a logistical and financial nightmare for election officials here, who now must organize a statewide primary, a special election for Mr. McCotter’s district, and a general election in November all in the space of three months.

Mr. McCotter’s bizarre political meltdown — marked by odd personal behavior and the failure of his campaign to secure the minimum number of legitimate signatures to get on the ballot — came too late for the state’s previously scheduled August 7 primary, which forced a second, “special” primary Sept. 5 just for Mr. McCotter’s district. A second “special” general election vote for the district will be held Nov. 6, the same day as the general election, with the winning candidate serving the final six weeks of Mr. McCotter’s term.

The cost of that special election is a tough pill to swallow in economically struggling areas of Detroit, where Mr. McCotter’s 11th District covers parts of Oakland and Wayne counties. The heavy cost of that election — estimated at $650,000 — comes in at about $10,800 per day of service in Washington.

Some wonder if the expense is even worth it and lay much of the blame for the political mess at the feet of Mr. McCotter, who left his district in shambles amid a decision to resign after his camp turned in bogus ballot petitions that prompted a state investigation into fraud.

“It was totally thoughtless. Words fail me,” said Inside Michigan Politics publisher Bill Ballenger of the expensive mess left by Mr. McCotter, who made a brief, abortive run for the GOP presidential nomination last year.

State election laws and the state constitution required Gov. Rick Snyder to call a special election to fill the House seats for the last few weeks of Mr. McCotter’s terms, but if there are not multiple challengers for the seat from either party, the special primary race can be canceled.

The Detroit News reported Thursday that Dave Curson, a labor activist from Belleville, had filed the requisite number of signatures to run in the special election, the only known Democrat interested in pursuing the seat.

But there might be a battle on the Republican side.

Tea party-backed Kerry Bentivolio, a 60-year-old Vietnam vet, teacher and reindeer farmer, is the only Republican candidate who has filed for the race. But he may have competition from former state Sen. Nancy Cassis, 68, a former school psychologist and experienced politician with a long career in Lansing, who is running as a write-in candidate in the state’s GOP primary and who is also collecting petition signatures, like Mr. Bentivolio, for the special election. She was endorsed for the seat by Mr. McCotter.

Mr. Bentivolio has publicly asked Mrs. Cassis not to run, charging in a press release that her involvement is an “apparent electioneering scheme” to provide her an excuse to raise campaign cash.

“It certainly appears as if Nancy Cassis has orchestrated a scheme that will cost taxpayers $650,000 so that she can raise $50,000 in additional campaign contributions,” Mr. Bentivolio said in a statement. “If Nancy Cassis was not involved, then it is her responsibility to publicly reject Thaddeus McCotter’s endorsement and pledge to not raise additional funds from maximum contributors and PACs.”

The filing deadline for petitions looms on Friday and the day to withdraw from the race is Monday.

“Right now from what I understand, both parties are trying to make a deal where only one candidate files or no more than one files for special election,” Mr. Ballenger said. “If that is the case, Snyder has said that they can waive a special and save $650,000.”

“It’s really absurd just to have someone there for seven weeks, at the end of the year. You can make an intelligent and legal argument that that would give the person a leg up on all other freshman, committee assignments, on room assignments because they take office in early November. But we don’t know if this could happen and at that cost, it’s just ridiculous,” he added.

Mr. Bentivolio’s spokesman, Bob Dindoffer, said Wednesday that 100 tea party volunteers had helped gather the needed amount of signatures to get their candidate on the ballot.

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