Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 29, 2012

George Weeks: Move enhances challenge

BY GEORGE WEEKS, Syndicated columnist
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---- — Northern Michigan tribal leader Derek Bailey has lowered his sights in seeking a House seat. Now it's a quest for the Michigan House, not Congress.

Bailey, outgoing chairman of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians, last week ended his bid to be the Democratic challenger of freshman U.S. Rep. Dan Benishek, R-Crystal Falls.

Instead, he's seeking the nomination to challenge state Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama, who represents Leelanau, Benzie, Manistee and Mason counties.

Bailey, who made a late entry in the congressional race, faced daunting odds in the Democratic primary from ex-state Rep. Gary McDowell, of Rudyard. He was the unsuccessful Democratic opponent of Benishek in the 2010 battle for the seat held by long-term Congressman Bart Stupak, D-Menominee, who did not seek reelection.

McDowell has strong support from the state and national Democratic establishments for a rematch with Benishek in the sprawling two-peninsula district where redistricting below the bridge has added GOP—leaning counties in the Grand Traverse region.

Benishek's is one of 25 GOP-held seats that Democrats believe they can seize. (Democrats have a particularity lively primary in the remapped 14th Congressional District, where the four-candidate field includes current congressmen Gary Peters, of Bloomfield Township, and Hansen Clarke, of Detroit.)

Businessman Bob Carr of Traverse City and Mackinaw City has said he'll seek the Democratic nomination against Benishek. He's been traveling the district and doing local media appearances, but has not filed. Noting the deadline is two weeks away, he said Saturday he is pondering, "Is there a path to winning?" He previously was a Republican challenger of Stupak but switched parties because the GOP "moved too far to the right."

In abandoning his congressional race, Bailey said he was facing reality. Among other things, McDowell has a vast early fundraising advantage — $650,000 to Bailey's $150,000.

Bailey should be a strong contender for the State House in the 101st District. In addition to his strong Leelanau County ties with business and local government leaders, he has similar connections in Benzie County, where he and his wife, Sonya, have family ties.

Also seeking the Democratic nomination is Copemish businessman Allen O'Shea, a former township supervisor and commissioner for Manistee County.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News. He previously was with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.