By Dawn Wolfe
Three Republican primaries should be of particular interest to voters in the LGBT community this Aug. 3.
In the 33rd district, Rep. Leon Drolet is one of only two Republican House members who voted against the proposal to place a ban on equal marriage rights on the November ballot. Even though the proposal is on the ballot anyway due to a petition drive, at least one Republican in Drolet’s district is out for revenge.
According to Inside Michigan Politics’ Bill Ballenger, Maria Carl, the widow of state Senator Doug Carl, “is challenging Drolet on this issue alone. She probably agrees with Drolet on every issue you can name, except this one.” The 33rd district covers northeast Macomb county. Drolet has been endorsed by Michigan Pride PAC.
The 63rd district, which encompasses parts of Kalamazoo and Calhoun counties, is the site of the same kind of race against a representative who refused to vote the bigoted Republican party line. Like Drolet, Lorence Wenke voted “no” on the anti-equal marriage rights proposal. According to Ballenger, “Unlike Drolet, he [Wenke] is more mainstream and more moderate. He was even chair of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners, elected by a majority of Democrats on that board.
Wenke is being challenged by Jerry VanderRoest, a former state representative from Galesburg who left his seat in 2002 to run a losing race for state Senate. The VanderRoest challenge is especially dangerous, since, according to Ballenger, “about half the district is the same” as the one VanderRoest served in his former term. However, the danger doesn’t stop there for the LGBT community, as Ballenger reports that VanderRoest “is a true one-man, one-woman believer and is challenging Wenke on that issue.”
Another big race for our community is in the 7th US House Congressional District. Joe Schwarz, the most moderate of six Republicans running, is being attacked because he has been endorsed by Michigan Pride PAC. Ballenger agrees with Michigan Pride PAC’s endorsement in this race, saying, “Compared to the others, he’s about your best hope in that primary. If he wins, the LGBT community ought to feel relatively good about that.
“He won’t be leading crusades against gay marriage,” Ballenger continued.
According to Chris Swope, the executive director of Michigan Equality, there are other important races for our community as well.
Michigan Equality has endorsed Steve Tobocman for Detroit’s 12th District in the Democratic primary. According to Swope, Tobocman, “has been a great friend in the Legislature – we really need to get him re-elected. He introduced legislation repealing the sodomy laws,” as well as being a backer of other gay-friendly bills.
Michigan Equality’s “top targets” for support in the various primaries are:
2nd District (Wayne County): Ted Wallace III (D)
12th District (Wayne County): Steve Tobocman (D)
52nd District (Washtenaw County): Pam Byrnes (D)
86th District (Kent County): Bob Eleveld (R)
According to Swope, the Aug. 3 primaries may be our community’s only chance of supporting LGBT-friendly candidates. “Most races are decided in the primary election. There are less than 20 state house seats where either party could win in the general election. If you aren’t voting in the primary, odds are you’re missing out on the whole thing.”