- The Washington Times - Monday, April 15, 2002

MOUNT CLEMENS, Mich. Tim Attalla looked at the possibilities in November's gubernatorial election and was unimpressed with his beloved Republican Party's chances.
So taking the road of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em," the Dearborn lawyer organized a little fund-raiser for a man most Republicans can barely stand Rep. David E. Bonior, who is embroiled in a primary race with former Michigan Gov. Jim Blanchard and state Attorney General Jennifer Granholm.
The House Democratic whip had a key appeal for Mr. Attalla and his friends: his centrist pro-life stance.
"I know already that there is no way Dick Posthumus is going to become governor," said Mr. Attalla, referring to the state's lieutenant governor. Mr. Posthumus is a former state senator from Western Michigan who is the presumptive Republican candidate to fill the large shoes of term-limited Gov. John Engler.
"The pro-life really helps a lot," Mr. Attalla said. "And when you look at the field of Democrats, Bonior is the one who makes the most sense to Republicans. My Republican friends came up with a term for it Bonior Republicanism."
Mr. Bonior, known in Washington as a 60s-throwback liberal and the fellow who took on Newt Gingrich, received $50,000 from Mr. Attalla's mostly-Republican get-together.
Mr. Bonior accepted the money eagerly and astounded local pundits.
"It is pretty incredible that Republicans would raise money for him and he would keep it," said Bill Ballenger, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, a newsletter widely read among political types. Keeping the money "would probably be an embarrassment to him and makes him look like a fool."
Perhaps some embarrassment has already set in. Mr. Bonior did not return calls and his campaign would not comment on its Republican support. The state Democratic Party also failed to return calls.
"Posthumus just has no name out there," Mr. Attalla said. "And we certainly don't want Blanchard or Granholm in there."
Mr. Bonior is faring well in fund raising, having already accepted matching public funds for the primary, which limits his spending to $2 million.
But he is struggling to keep pace with his formidable opposition in the polls. An EPIC/MRA poll of 300 likely Democratic primary voters last month had him at 12 percent to 46 percent for Miss Granholm and 32 percent for Mr. Blanchard.
Mr. Bonior has won re-election six times in his district, which is centered in Macomb County, the place that gave birth to the "Reagan Democrat" two decades ago.
"He has done a lot for his constituents," said Janice Nearon, chairman of the Macomb County Republican Party. "I can see how some Republicans now would be ready to support him in his bid. They have in the past."
State Republicans acknowledge that Mr. Bonior will get at least some mileage out of his pro-life stance, and they note that he balanced that view by selecting a more liberal running mate in state Sen. Alma Wheeler Smith.
"It is an interesting choice to make, to pick the senator," said Jason Brewer, a spokesman for the state Republican Party. "He thinks that he can take the issue of abortion away from us, which he can't do. He can make a fight of it, though."
When Mr. Bonior announced Miss Smith as his pick, she said that Mr. Bonior had a "mixed record" on abortion, but she quickly added that since they agree on most other issues, it would have little bearing on their work as a team.
The other Democrats in the primary have strived to be as pro-choice as possible.
Mr. Blanchard brags that as governor in the 1980s, he vetoed measures to end taxpayer funding of abortion. Miss Granholm has received money and an endorsement from the pro-choice fund-raising group Emily's List.
But Right to Life of Michigan is refusing to back Mr. Bonior, saying he is "50-50 at this point."
"We stopped endorsing him in 1992," said Larry Galmish, director of the group's political action committee. "He became second in command in Congress and followed party line in Washington."

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