Michigan’s 11th Congressional District is one of the most highly gerrymandered districts in the state. I mean, geez, just look at this travesty:
Clearly, when Republicans redrew that district, they had no interest in the Democrats (read: black people) of Pontiac voting in their election. The newly redrawn district contains much of the former territory and is a hotbed of tea party action. This is the area, after all, that elected Thad McCotter and, more recently, Kerry Bentivolio. It takes courage to run as a Democrat in this district and there are three Dems willing to step up to that challenge.
One of those candidates is Bobby McKenzie, a former State Department staffer who specialized in counter-terrorism. McKenzie, who was an early DCCC recruit for this race, has been racking up the endorsements left and right. In addition to a number of smaller labor union endorsements, McKenzie landed the the support of Dean of the House Congressman John Dingell.
Today, the Michigan AFL-CIO threw their support behind McKenzie’s candidacy:
“We are supporting Bobby because he will fight tirelessly to improve the lives of middle-class families and working men and women,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift. “He has an unwavering commitment to improving our economy by raising the federal minimum wage, investing in infrastructure and job training, ensuring that every child has access to a quality public education, and to protecting seniors so they can retire with dignity.”
The other two Dems running in this race are Dr. Anil Kumar, a surgeon, and Nancy Skinner, a former liberal radio talk show host. Skinner and Kumar recently joined forces to issue a rather desperate-sounding announcement condemning McKenzie for what they say are his claims that he is endorsed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (something I will confess I have not seen.)
It’s an fascinating race, to be sure. None of the candidates have ever held elected office before (though Skinner has run and lost twice, including once to Barack Obama in a Illinois Senate race.) Kumar has been widely criticized in Democratic circles for making campaign contributions to Republicans Rick Snyder, Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski, Mike Rogers, and Mitt Romney. However, he has given much more to Democratic candidates over the same time frame, suggesting that he was simply spreading his money around as a businessman. His lack of previous political experience has led to charges that he’s not really all that serious about the race, an accusation that seems to have some merit given that he’s been cited twice by the FEC for failing to provide the quarterly and year-end campaign financing documentation required by federal law.
Skinner seems to be running almost exclusively on her progressive bona fides with a particular emphasis on her support for clean energy and mitigating the man-made impacts on global climate change. A late entrant into the race, she has what can only be described as a nearly invisible campaign. In fact, if you Google “Nancy Skinner”, “Nancy Skinner Michigan”, or “Nancy Skinner for Congress”, you can go 10 pages deep without a link to her site (I didn’t go any farther because…) I even Googled “Skinner for Congress” which is the URL of her website and failed to find her site in the first ten pages. It’s actually sort of amazing.
Skinner recently came under fire from some Democrats when she issued a “sour grapes” response to Congressman Dingell’s endorsement of Bobby McKenzie. In her statement, Skinner seemed to be brushing off Congressman Dingell as a relic of the past:
“I have enormous respect for Congressman John Dingell and his nearly 60 years of distinguished service to the U.S. Congress, and I wish him all the best in his retirement beginning next year, but this race for congress is about the future, not the past.
That’s the sort of not-so-veiled insult that doesn’t sit well with many Michigan Democrats who hold John Dingell in very high esteem.
As I said, it’s a fascinating race and it takes some courage to run in this absurdly gerrymandered district. Considering that whoever wins the primary will run against either corporatist foreclosure vulture David Trott or incumbent Kerry Bentivolio, a man whose own brother describes as “mentally unbalanced” and someone with “serious mental issues”, it’s certainly not out of the question that a Democrat could pull out a win.
Being vetted and found solid by AFL-CIO and Congressman Dingell should certainly help McKenzie win the primary. However, the campaign still has about seven weeks to go so stay tuned.