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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Tim Skubick: Will Democrats pour money into recapturing the Michigan House?

Published: Sunday, August 05, 2012, 6:44 PM Updated: Sunday, August 05, 2012, 8:06 PM
Profile: Andy Dillon
Former Speaker of the House Andy Dillon is one reason why some donors may be hesitant to open up their pocketbooks to finance campaigns that could retake the state House.
It’s as if it happened just yesterday.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm was being whisked through a throng of jubilant Democrats to  celebrate her re-election in 2006 when she breezed by a reporter back stage.

“We just took control of the Michigan House,” she burst into her patented smile as her words trailed off into the maddening crowd.
Yeah. How’d that work out?

Not so hot which is why now, House Democrats are running into what’s known as the “Andy Dillon Curse.”

Those Democrats desperately want to swipe control from Republicans this fall and need a 10-seat pick-up to get there. However when Democrats go to their financial supporters in education, labor, and elsewhere, they sometimes run into the “Curse.”

Those with money put everything they had into taking control in '06, but with Mr. Dillon in charge, “He didn’t do much for the base” of the party, one insider laments. In other words, some Democratic donors didn't feel they got their money's worth.

Mr. Dillon’s “Democratic” credentials were the subject of internal debate as he cuddled up to the senate GOP leader in what turned out to be Gov. G’s worse nightmare. And to prove the point, Mr. Dillon ended-up in the Snyder administration. Surprise. Surprise.

Hence when it comes to money, memories are very long, and given the rambunctious nature of the House Democratic caucus, there is no guarantee another “Dillon-type” Democrat is not lurking in the wings. And that gives donors pause before they open their checkbooks.

This is not to say that the traditional Democrat money bags are bailing on the current batch of Democrats. Labor has sent word, “We are with you” on trying to regain control.

But labor is also pouring a ton of money into its own ballot proposals, one of which has a lousy 44 percent support in the polls. As one person put it, it makes more sense to dump those dollars into close house races where Democrats could win giving the D’s something more important than a ballot amendment: veto power and a firewall to block the GOP Governor’s agenda.

On the other side, there are rumblings that the Republicans themselves are a tad nervous about losing control. In fact one report from a knowledgeable source suggests a post-election November lame duck agenda of conservative GOP issues is being considered, just in case the Democrats pull this off.
That way the governor could pass all that stuff, including Right to Work, before the Democrats take control in January.

There is a path for Democrats to get there, although it’s not a sure thing.
Just ponder the self-inflected train-wrecks the Republicans have foisted on
themselves. Starting with the Vagina mess that stirred up female voters.
And then there's the Rep. Roy Schmidt/Speaker Jase Bolger fiasco, in which they were accused of trying to influence an election. It could cost Schmidt his own seat in Grand Rapids.

Normally outstate Michigan is a stronghold for the GOP. But with the advent of the governor’s tax on some senior pensions, all those retired union workers up North could show up in mass to bounce the incumbent R’s out of a job.
A lot depends, too, on how well Mr. Obama does as the D’s hope for presidential coattails that reach from Monroe to Marquette.
Hope is the easy part.

And some are hoping the "Dillon Curse" is a myth that won’t cost the Democrats the seats they need to regain control in what is sure to be a close contest either way.

Tim Skubick is host of "Off the Record" on WKAR-TV in East Lansing. Watch the show anytime at


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