Sierra Club Snubs Rep. John Dingell & The Local Candidates He Endorses Again. And Again. And Again.
by Rob Smith
“I don’t get no respect,” was the signature line of comedian Rodney Dangerfield. The 2012 Michigan Sierra Club political endorsements are out, and in Michigan the Dean of the House, Representative John Dingell, just don’t get no respect from the Sierra Club. Don’t get me wrong. Mr. Dingell doesn’t deserve an endorsement for his environmentalism. He has shielded Detroit’s automakers for the past several decades to the detriment of the environment. In April, I picked up the newspaper and was puzzled to see an Ode to John Dingell by the Executive Director of the Michigan Environmental Council, Mr. Christopher Kolb, a former Ann Arbor City Council and state representative. As A2Politico noted recently, since the 90s Mother Jones magazine’s political and environmental coverage of Mr. Dingell’s work in Congress has read like a rap sheet. For example, in 2010 Mr. Dingell said: “I continue to make the case that the Supreme Court, in Massachusetts v. EPA, erroneously found that greenhouse gases are pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act.”
His idea is that Congress should regulate greehouse gas emission standards.
These are people who take Big Money from Big Oil, especially Mr. Dingell, who is a favorite of BP’s political PAC. I can hear Congress now: “Asthma? Ozone? You folks just plain crazy. They ain’t no warming. We got plenty of AC here in DC. The ozone is just fine where it is. What greenhouse gases?!? Pass the Super PAC money and pork chops, please.”
The Michigan Sierra Club 2012 endorsements are right on in voting Mr. Dingell right off the island. He’s been a horsefly in the country’s environmental ointment for decades. Mr. Dingell is also a fly in the political ointment in Ann Arbor. He has been “endorsing” candidates for local office. In 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and now in 2012 Mr. Dingell has lent his name to local candidates looking to impress the voters.
There’s just one problem. Mr. Dingell has a knack for backing candidates much like himself, pols who are not Sierra Club endorsement material. In 2009, 2010, 2011 and now again in 2012 the Michigan Sierra Club refused to endorse not only Mr. Dingell, but the local candidates he endorsed, as well. It’s a singular record that no other member of Congress can touch. They can’t touch it, in part, because it is uncommon for members of the United States House of Representatives to even endorse in City Council runoff races. The Houston Chronicle made a point of noting that two Texas Congressman had endorsed a City Council candidate there in a 2012 run-off election. In 2012, fewer than 2 percent of members in the U.S. House of Representatives gave endorsements in local races.
President Obama recently endorsed Representative John Conyers, Jr., who is facing stiff opposition. Mr. Conyers, however, doesn’t endorse in City Council races in the cities in southeastern Michigan where is district is, according to a staffer who fielded my question via email. “It wouldn’t be appropriate,” wrote the staffer, “for the Congressman to involve himself in local political races.”
After Mr. Obama endorsed Mr. Conyers, the Congressman issued a statement which said, in part, “I am extremely humbled by President Obama’s endorsement.”
Local Ann Arbor folks who run for office don’t seem to be issuing statements about feeling “extremely humbled” by the endorsement of the longest-sitting member of the United States Congress. The local candidates just hang out the Dingell Shingle on a campaign webpage and maybe feel humbled inside, where it counts? I can understand that Representative Dingell don’t get no respect from the Sierra Club, but Mr. Dingell don’t get no respect from the City Council candidates he endorses, either. Could it be because Mr. Dingell’s endorsement isn’t the silver bullet you would think an endorsement from a member of Congress would be?
In 2009, when Mr. Dingell endorsed former Ward 3 City Council member Leigh Greden, it didn’t help. Greden lost. In 2011, when Mr. Dingell endorsed a City Council member who ran for Mayor as a Republican, then switched to the branch of the Democratic Party where they support the GOP candidate for governor, that guy lost, as well. Now, Mr. Dingell is endorsing Ward 2 Council member Tony Derezinski and Ward 5 candidate Chuck Warpehoski. Will the endorsements make a difference to voters? Time will tell.
However, like Mr. Dingell, his Democratic horses in those local races didn’t get no respect from the Michigan Sierra Club. Mr. Derezinski running for re-election to Ann Arbor City Council, as far as I can tell, doesn’t have a record that would merit an endorsement. Mr. D. hasn’t seen a parking garage he didn’t like, and voted to use parkland for parking. He’s a Democrat with Republican leanings, to be sure. He has criticized city labor unions as greedy, and his campaign finance records show lots of Republican support, including from the former chair of the Michigan Republican Party. Mr. Warpehoski, I am guessing, just plain lost out on the endorsement because his opponent has more experience and more accomplishments. Maybe someday Chuck will get some support from the Michigan Sierra Club, but not this time around.
That the Sierra Club considers Mr. Dingell unworthy of endorsement should come as no surprise to anyone. That the local candidates he has endorsed consider Mr. Dingell unworthy of thanks is a cryin’ shame. That small-time locals use a Congressman’s name without public thanks is an insult to Mr. Dingell and the office he occupies. That Mr. Dingell doesn’t bother to tell voters why he’s endorsing the local candidates he does is an insult to the political process. I may not agree with Mr. Dingell’s stances on greenhouse gases, global warming, fuel emission standards and the like, but I think we can all agree that Mr. Dingell does deserve respect from the candidates he endorses. Likewise, local voters deserve Mr. Dingell’s respect by being able to rely on his professionalism in explaining clearly why he gives the endorsements he does. Is he endorsing these local candidates for a particular reason, or is the name “John D. Dingell, Jr.” just an old bone that gets tossed to local candidates?
Like the Sierra Club, Representative Dingell needs to have standards and explain them. Otherwise, don’t nobody get no respect in these local runoff elections.
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