Michigan — July 7, 2011 at 4:27 pm

David slays Goliath? MI House Speaker Bolger recall petitioner proves Bolger is too smart by half


Maybe some good news for those of us without enormous amounts of money and powerful friends in high places today. In my latest piece at A2Politico, I write about Autumn Smith’s endrun around Michigan Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger. Bolger, as I have been documenting, is using a high-dollar law firm and, likely, his connections in the Calhoun County government to stall, delay and outspend Smith. You can read my previous blogs about the story HERE.

But now, it appears, Smith has shown Bolger and his legal eagles to be too smart by half. She points to a piece of Michigan’s election law, Michigan Election Law 168.952 Section 3, which states that:

“The board of county election commissioners, not less than 10 days or more than 20 days after submission to it of a petition for the recall of an officer, shall meet and shall determine whether each reason for the recall stated in the petition is of sufficient clarity to enable the officer whose recall is sought and the electors to identify the course of conduct that is the basis for the recall. Failure of the board of county election commissioners to comply with this subsection shall constitute a determination that each reason for the recall stated in the petition is of sufficient clarity to enable the officer whose recall is being sought and the electors to identify the course of conduct that is the basis for the recall.

Turns out that Bolger’s Temporary Restraining Order, enjoining the County from hearing any further from Smith pushes them outside the 20-day window. This means that her last petition language submission is deemed sufficient by default. And, in fact, she began collecting signatures this week.

Here’s a bit of my commentary from the much longer piece at A2Politico (where you will see Smith’s press release and many other details):

[O]ne thing is clear. There are many recall efforts being waged against Republican lawmakers in Michigan at this time, including one against the Governor himself. In only one of those has the constitutionality of the County Election Commission been challenged. And in only one of them has the subject of the recall spent such enormous amounts of money and time hiring lawyers to throw up incessant roadblocks and to delay the simple acceptance of petition language. Jase Bolger is trying to prevent Autumn Smith from circulating her recall petitions. This political dust up has all of the hallmarks of a wealthy, powerful legislator using his wealth and power to wear down his opponent — hoping she will eventually run out of money or interest. Autumn Smith is a 26-year old woman with very limited resources. However, she has spunk, determination and smarts. As she told Tony Trupiano, a Detroit radio talk show host on WDTW (podcast HERE), she will not be deterred by their delay tactics and will continue her fight until she is successful at getting the recall of Jase Bolger on the ballot.

Given his actions thus far, it seems unlikely that Speaker Bolger will simply allow Smith’s petition drive to move forward. I am sure she can expect more legal actions against her and, even now, she’s being pressured to withdraw her petition language filings that were approved on June 13th. When I asked Adler what Speaker Bolger would do if Smith did withdraw them, he said, “Well, I don’t know…”

Autumn Smith is playing the role of David to Jase Bolger’s Goliath. She’s out-funded, out-lawyered, and faces a headwind against Bolger’s Republican friends and supporters on the Calhoun County Election Commission, in the courts, and even in the Attorney General’s office. Yet, she is perservering in the face of this headwind because of her passion for what she feels is right. All she is asking for is a chance for the voters to have a voice on the actions of their leaders.

And that, it appears, is the last thing Jase Bolger wants.

According to reporting by the Battle Creek Enquirer, the County’s attorney, Richard Lindsey, believes the TRO stops the clock on the 20-day limit.

Lindsey, however, said the judge’s injunction should temporarily stop the clock on the language approval process, and that Smith should wait until the election commission is given a chance to rule on the language.

“I would say she proceeds at her own risk right now,” he said. “She may end up with signatures that need to be refiled.”

Maybe Lindsey is right. Maybe he is not. There’s nothing spelled out in the election laws about this so it will come down to a judge’s ruling and both Calhoun County and the Michigan State Supreme Court are dominated by Republicans. But, here’s the thing: this is all terrible publicity for Bolger. It is also a distraction. And, finally, it is enormously expensive for him continue to battle this. So, in my analysis, Smith is David and she may very well have just taken down Goliath.