State Senator Rebekah Warren Becomes First and Only Democratic Michigan Legislator Targeted For Recall in 2011
Lawrence Kestenbaum has just 280 followers on Twitter. Not a grand following for the County Clerk of Washtenaw County. Kestenbaum, a Democrat, yesterday made the unusual choice to tweet about a new recall effort launched in the state of Michigan, this time against a Democratic legislator. Kestenbaum sent out two tweets, the first of which read, “Recall reasons filed today against State Sen. Rebekah Warren, over her vote against HB 4361 (biz tax repeal).” The next one read, “Clarity hearing on Rebekah Warren recall language scheduled for Wed July 20, 11am, 200 N. Main, A2.”
As Chris Savage wrote in his most recent A2Politico column, “There are over a dozen recall efforts against Michigan Republicans underway right now.” There are 20 GOP legislators in Michigan being targeted by various grass-roots groups and individuals. It was actually Michigan political analyst Jack Lessenberry who first wrote about the possibility of achieving political change in the state more expediently by recalling individual legislators, as opposed to tackling the recall of the state’s Republican governor. Turns out, Lessenberry was on to something. Not only are Michigan voters engaged in a recall effort to rid the state of its Republican governor, a task that will require the collection of a minimum of 880,000 signatures and probably closer to 1.1 million signatures, but voters state-wide have launched petition drives to toss out individual Republican members of the Michigan House and Senate, as well.
Now, in a move that does not come as a surprise to political insiders, a Democratic state legislator finds herself targeted for recall.
Senator Rebekah Warren, daughter-in-law of former gubernatorial candidate Alma Wheeler-Smith, is Michigan’s first, and so far only, Democratic legislator targeted for recall in 2011. Papers filed by a resident of Ypsilanti Township, Steven E. Wallis, ask that his petition language be approved by the three-member Washtenaw County Board of Election Commissioners charged with the task. Washtenaw County Clerk Lawrence Kestenbaum sits on that three-person panel, as does Judge Donald Shelton and the County’s Treasurer, Catherine McClary. The three last met in late-April to determine whether the language used in the petition to recall Governor Rick Snyder was sufficiently clear and properly worded.
As County Clerk Kestenbaum made clear in his second tweet, evidently Mr. Wallis is upset with Senator Warren for voting against HB 4361, which recently repealed the Michigan business tax.
Warren, a first-term state senator, defeated fellow Democrat former House Speaker Pro Tem Pam Byrnes in a hotly contested race in 2010. Byrnes, who was term-limited out of her seat in the Michigan House, saw her campaign undone in the final days thanks in part to a series of mailings attacking Warren done on “behalf” of Byrnes’s campaign, and paid for by the Republican-backed Great Lakes Education PAC, whose donors included several prominent Republicans, including Dick DeVos and the former Chair of the Michigan Republican Party, Ron Weiser. After the mailings hit voters’ mailboxes, Byrnes campaign manager told the local press her campaign was not behind the attacks. Kent Sparks said the campaign had been caught by surprise when the ads came out. Sparks told AnnArbor.com in late-July 2010, “We had no idea. This was an independent expenditure. We found out when the pieces hit.”
Warren, in response to the ads, told AnnArbor.com, “she [could] only conclude the DeVos family and other Republicans are opposing her because she is more liberal, pro-choice, pro-LGBT rights and supports strong public schools. She said they ‘hate’ those things and must find more support for their causes within Byrnes.”
When newly-elected Republican governor Rick Snyder entered the Michigan Legislature for the first time to speak to the legislators gathered there, he was accompanied to the podium by Ann Arbor’s Democratic Senator Rebekah Warren. In fact, for the first few months after Snyder was elected, Warren went on the record multiple times defending the Republican’s policies and his politics. Warren’s husband, Washtenaw County Commission Conan Smith told AnnArbor.com on March 21, 2011, shortly after Snyder signed the expanded Emergency Manager measure into law that, “We absolutely need it. When we have cities that are in crisis, they have to get some oversight….The fact of the matter is we were not utilizing the law and it needed to be utilized.” Warren voted against that bill.
When Rebekah Warren ran for office in 2010, she campaigned for the job by assuring voters that Michigan needed Democrats in the Senate who would be able to work with the state’s Republicans. To date, Warren has co-sponsored one piece of legislation with Republican counter-parts in the Senate. She has voted against several of the recently passed bills supported by her Republican colleagues, including HB 4361. Warren, and her Democratic colleagues in the Michigan Senate have been, to date, lone Democratic voices in what has become a Republican-controlled wilderness.
Now, Warren is the only Democratic senator in the state legislature being targeted for recall.
In Wisconsin, on June 8, 2011, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board certified a sufficient number of signatures against all three Democrat Senators against whom recall petitions were submitted for filing, setting up recall elections for all three, or at least primaries if more than one Democrat, one Republican, or one Constitution Party candidate files to run, on July 19, one week later than the same for the 6 targeted Republican state Senators. The Democrats were targeted because they left Madison rather than vote on Governor Scott’s proposed budget.
As to why Steven Wallis chose to focus on Rebekah Warren, the petitioner was unavailable for comment.
Senator Warren released a statement in which she responded to Wallis’s recall efforts. She writes, “The recall process allows citizens to express their opinions.” Using almost the exact turn of phrase used by Governor Rick Snyder, Senator Warren goes on to refer to the recall effort as “democracy in action.”
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