I'm on the edge of an advertising hurricane up here in Grand Rapids. It seems like every single local ad break on WOOD features the Schauer-Walberg race, and that station's viewing area covers just the western edge of the 7th district. I can't imagine what it is like in the Lansing market. Before a few weeks ago, it was Club For Growth and the NRCC for Walberg, countered by the DCCC for Schauer. Last week, the campaigns themselves jumped in as well; Schauer with the "Tables" ad, and Walberg with the now thoroughly discredited Orbitform ad. It's crazy. Really crazy. There is one on now. It's constant. And I can't wait until they are gone.
So, I decided to take a drive down to Marshall last week and find out what all the brouhaha is all about. It's a pleasant drive down M-37, the day was beautiful, the colors at their peak; so what the heck - get me away from this TV and go see some Schauer yard signs for a change, check up on my favorite state senator. Besides, my family tree (Brooks) plays a prominent part in Marshall's history, and it's been awhile since I've been there. Mark held a small town hall at a local cafe, talking with some residents about the problems we face, and what he would like to see happen in Washington.
First of all, I could tell by looking at him - this guy is working hard. Very hard. I hadn't seen him in person in a few months, and the toll these campaigns take on a person was evident. He could barely talk, he's lost weight. Granted, he has been a bit under the weather, but it's more than that. I saw it in the governor in '06, I'm seeing it in Mark now - someone who has been working 24/7 at meeting voters and getting the message out with every waking second. This is a grueling task for anyone to undertake, and my hat's off to anyone who attempts it.
Undertake it he sure has, and he is fun to watch. Mark is very much a "people person", and that was obvious the first time I met him, well before the run for Congress. The guy just flat-out likes people; he greets everyone with a smile and a handshake or a hug, and you get the impression that he is really interested in talking to you. He doesn't come across as fake or insincere, as some politicians do. He strikes me as very genuine. Don't get me wrong, they all seem to have that politician veneer that they must carry to some extent, but with Schauer, you sense there is more there. His concern shows.
He got there a little before the official starting time of this meeting. The cafe is divided into two different sections, and they had segregated off the regular customers into one side to have space for the town hall. I said "hi" to the Senator when he came in, we were just milling about, waiting around, and I said offhand, pointing, "You should go work that room". The words were barely out of my mouth and off he went, zoom. He's just that quick. I laughed. I wondered if he would be like that even if he weren't running for Congress. Something tells me he is; after all, I've seen it in his work in the Senate.
The town hall meeting itself was pretty small - but this is Marshall, population of around 8,000 or so, and you can't really expect a mob. And, this is a scene that has been repeated across the towns of the 7th - small groups of people concerned enough to come out and speak their minds to a candidate, ask questions, look for answers. Real politics, right at the grassroots. There is something very special about that.
One of the first things that came up was the ads. In a nutshell, the people that were there are tired of them. Had enough. Sick of it. Almost puts the candidate in a position where they have to apologize for the "way things are", and that must be tough. Is there a backlash occurring this year? Senator Schauer mentioned that his numbers have grown as the negative ads from Walberg have come out - whether that can be attributed to backlash or not, it's hard to tell. That is all Walberg is running at this point - probably because he can't point to any success in his time in Congress, or any plan that is different from the Bush "cut taxes, less regulation" economics that he adheres to.
This fact came up in the town hall. One gentleman complained that Walberg hasn't done anything for the district, that he wants representation that will do something for the 7th. I wrote down the words, "Michigan needs special attention" - whether this gentleman or Schauer said them, I can't remember now, but that was the overwhelming attitude of this group. They want someone to work for them for a change, to work for the good of our state.
What about education? Health care? The environment? Jobs? The economy? Infrastructure? As all these thing were mentioned by the citizens of Marshall, it really hit me how much needs attention, - not just here, but all over the country. The daunting job that awaits the new administration and Congress, to clean up this mess and get us moving forward again. When you stop to think about it - it can be overwhelming.
Senator Schauer took them one by one, and proved that he has a solid grasp on the issues. He understands what is broken, how it got broken, and what needs to be done to start to fix it. He doesn't cling to any one particular ideology or simply attack the other side; he takes the time to understand what is really going on, and he has ideas on where he would like to go. And, he is willing to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans, provided they are willing to work as well.
What he won't do is put up with Republicans that hurt people - and that is why I like him. People may think that I am some big Dem cheerleader. I'm really not. Overall, they actually annoy me more than inspire me (but that is changing this year with this campaign of hope). There are very few I take an interest in, certainly not enough to drive an hour to see, but the ones I do, I can trace it back to one moment, one time they stood up for "people". This was Schauer's moment for me - March 23, 2007. Repubicans had made drastic cuts in the middle of the night without debate; a disgusting and cowardly display that they are now famous for. Schauer would have none of it.
So this is how the Republican-controlled Senate makes public policy? I think it's interesting. A bill, a shell bill, is introduced a month ago. A secret plan that, for good reason, the Republican Party, or the Republican majority, doesn't want to reveal, is kept secret, and a bill was discharged to the floor, a negative supplemental budget bill that makes devastating cuts to people, communities, our state, and jeopardizes our future as put forward.
So just like your Republican cuts to our schools, this set of Republican cuts from the infamous secret plan are, thank goodness, dead on arrival. No wonder this plan was secret for so long. And no wonder the Republican majority limited debate. And no wonder the Republican majority, most of them, left the floor to spin the press about what they've done here today. No wonder.
Thank goodness the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives and our Democratic Governor will kill these cuts--cuts that hurt our people, sacrifice our communities, and jeopardize our future. Let's be clear, colleagues and public, we have enacted cuts here today--$340 million worth of cuts. Certainly, we have a long way to go. Republicans today have chosen a strategy of a race to the bottom, rather than of investing our people, healthy vibrant communities, and a strong, diversified economy.
Whoa. Who is this guy. I watched him ever since, and time and time again, he stood up to the nonsense. He called out the Senate Republicans when they didn't want to work, he called them out when they censored this blog, he called them out when they kicked him off the Campaign & Elections Oversight Committee for pointing out that Republicans would rather play partisan games than work on election reforms that would help people - something that will become very relevant next week, as we shall see. He also stood up to Bruce Patterson, which could have been dangerous (I kid). He IS a troublemaker - he makes trouble for those who would hurt people. I jokingly called him that at the State of the State Address, and he gave me this "Who, me?" look, but I think he knew what I was talking about. We were directly across the hall from Bishop's office, after all.
And he has fought for those jobs that have been mentioned - Brembo, Duncan Aviation, the National Guard, MIS, and most recently bringing Uni-Solar to Battle Creek - he is out there, working it everyday, I have no doubt. They don't call him the "Energizer Bunny" for nothing.
I'm really jealous of the people of the 7th. Part of me feels like an interloper there, I can't vote for the guy, but I sure wish I could. What I would give to have a congressman like that. I have a Mark Schauer yard sign up, which probably confuses the hell out of my neighbors, but I don't care. Maybe someone from Battle Creek will drive by, who knows. It's my little token of appreciation to a guy who is fighting for this state, and his actions in the Senate certainly have helped me - it's the least I can do to repay the favor. (besides posting, that is)
I gladly go to bat for Mark Schauer, because he will go to bat for Michigan in Congress. I guarantee it. Good luck, Senator - I will be cheering you on next Tuesday with all my heart.