by Eric Rader
The Human Rights Campaign’s information on Michigan’s current congressional delegation (including Peters and Schauer) and their support for LGBT equality:http://tinyurl.com/2ab6koh
With less than three months to go until the midterm elections, the battle for control of Congress moves to center stage.
Two years ago, President Obama’s political coattails helped to enlarge the Democratic majorities in Congress, with some relatively conservative House districts electing Democrats for the first time in many years. Now, many of the first-term Democratic incumbents face tough re-election prospects.
Some of these new lawmakers had to cast some difficult, but necessary, votes during their first 18 months in office in order to prevent an economic depression and expand health care coverage to more Americans. The freshman Democrats of 2009-2010 will be needed in the coming months and years to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act, support other pro-equality legislation, and continue to take the important steps needed to bring the nation’s economy back to life.
Two of the Democrats elected in Republican districts in 2008 are right here in Michigan: Rep. Gary Peters (Bloomfield Hills) and Rep. Mark Schauer (Battle Creek). Both of these congressmen are prime targets of the national Republican Party in its efforts to regain control of Congress this year. Without people like Reps. Peters and Schauer in Congress, the chances for passage of progressive legislation in Congress would dwindle significantly. The Republicans have selected their nominees for these two seats, and the contrasts between the incumbents and challengers are quite stark.
Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski is the Republican candidate selected to challenge Rep. Peters in Oakland County. Raczkowski is a former Michigan state representative, and was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 2002 against Sen. Carl Levin, losing badly to the veteran senator. The Republican nominee is trying to project a sensible image to the voters of his moderate district. However, Raczkowski would represent a radical step backward for Michigan, and would be even more conservative than the man Peters defeated in 2008, Joe Knollenberg.
Recently Raczkowski aligned himself with the so-called “birthers,” reactionary crackpots who believe that President Obama was not born in the United States, and is therefore, in their view, not constitutionally qualified to serve as president. Disturbingly, a lot of people in the Republican Party have bought into this fallacy, indicative of how far out of the mainstream that party has drifted in recent years. Raczkowski’s alignment with the birthers belies his efforts to present himself as a political moderate.
Raczkowski has also accepted the endorsement (and financial resources) of the Eagle Forum, a rabidly anti-woman and anti-LGBT organization, founded by the bigoted activist Phyllis Schlafly. In a recent speech for Raczkowski, Schlafly suggested that a majority of unmarried woman voted for President Obama in 2008 because they need “big brother” when they kick the man out of the house. If this is the sort of support Raczkowski wants in his campaign, it is fair to say that he would be a reliable vote against equality and in favor of discrimination if elected to Congress.
Republican voters in the Seventh District (Schauer’s) have selected former Rep. Tim Walberg to run against the man who defeated him two years ago. This rematch has Republicans salivating, because they still cannot quite believe that a Democrat could win in this fairly conservative district.
Throughout his career in the Michigan legislature and Congress, Walberg, a fundamentalist minister, was solidly in the back pocket of the religious right. Unsurprisingly, Walberg also enjoys the endorsement of the Eagle Forum. On his campaign website, the former representative says that if elected again to Congress, he would fight for “one man, one woman marriage” and for the “sanctity of life.” In one of his losing congressional races several years ago, Walberg stated his belief that “it’s a sin to be gay.”
In 2008, voters in Michigan and across the country elected many progressive candidates to Congress who believe that all citizens should be treated equally and fairly. Reps. Peters and Schauer have served with great courage during these tough times. Many people are rightly anxious about the state of the economy, and a natural reaction among some voters is to choose new people to make things better. However, Raczkowski and Walberg would only serve the interests of homophobes, religious zealots and political crackpots. Michigan voters have correctly rejected these two men in the past, and for the sake of our state and nation, the voters should reject them again.