The filing deadline for partisan Congressional candidates in Michigan came and went yesterday. One of the biggest surprises was the fact that Rev. Horace Sheffield III filed to run against John Conyers in the Democratic primary. The fact that no Republican filed in that race effectively means whoever wins the primary wins the 14th Congressional district seat. So voters are given a false choice between bad and worse. Unfortunately, I am really not surprised that the Republicans failed to file anyone. When I contacted the Party in 2005 expressing my interest to run in the 2006 election, I was met with an extremely defeatist attitude. The apathy among most of the Republicans in the district caught me by surprise. I was expecting people that would be motivated to unseat the man that been pushing for impeachment since day one of the Bush administration, a representative who had completely neglected the district for decades, and who had a wife who was a loud mouth, bar room brawling Detroit City Council embarrassment. But instead I found a relatively small group of people who just went through the motions. A group of people who just find names to place on the ballot in November. A group of people who “check the block” and then call it a day. The general attitude toward my candidacy was one of mild amusement. When I would meet other Michigan Republicans and introduce myself as the guy “who was running against Conyers” eyes would roll, people would snicker and make some sarcastic comment like “good luck with that.” It was considered a lost cause, a suicide mission. I was the sacrificial lamb. I had lost before I had begun.
Don’t get me wrong, I realized the odds were against me in the race. I wasn’t born yesterday. I have been around the world a few times (literally) and I have a degree in political science. I am not naïve. But, what the MIGOP misses in these long shot races (and there are MANY of them in Wayne County) is the fact that these are perfect training opportunities for young politicians. The Republicans have no political “farm team”, to use a baseball term. These races are a perfect training ground for future leaders to get in front of people and learn how to speak before a public audience, deal with the press, use technology to reach potential voters, learn how to raise money, and just learn the ropes in the political arena. It is also a perfect way to build name recognition in an area where you may want to run for a different office in the future. I do not understand why nobody seems to get this. Additionally, the MIGOP seriously needs to make inroads in Wayne County and Detroit. This is an area that they have neglected for far too long. They can’t just swoop in before major elections and expect to get any substantial amount of votes. Simply put, there is no long term Republican strategy in Wayne County. Many Democrats continue to run unopposed in every election cycle. That is a shame. Every seat that remains empty on the Republican side is a missed opportunity to communicate a message, to establish a presence or to show involvement and support for the area.
I am sure that many Republicans will be angry at me for writing this. They will accuse me of betraying the Party. I could not disagree more. I made many tough sacrifices during my Congressional run. I took a lot of harsh criticism for being a Republican, but I held my ground and I took my lumps because I believed in what I was doing. If I didn’t want to see the Michigan Republican Party succeed I would not write this. The biggest problem is that Democrats have been given a political monopoly in Wayne County. When politicians are continually granted the opportunity to run unopposed they will never be held accountable.
While there are many Republicans in Wayne County that are “talkers” and not “walkers”, there is a small group that has the “fire in the belly”. They really want to change the status quo and make a difference. They are the ones who need to start the revolution. They need to be the catalyst for change. They need to stand up and challenge the notion that Republicans can’t get elected in this area. They need to challenge the practice of placing a name on the ballot just to fill a slot. They are the ones who need to map out the long term strategic vision for Wayne County. They need to be the wind of change that sweeps through stagnant Republican committees and groups that have made no progress in years. Only when this happens will the political power monopoly of the Democrats finally be broken. So I ask you, who wants to join the revolution in Wayne County?
Chad Miles was the 2006 Republican candidate in Michigan’s 14th Congressional District and is a veteran of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He is a technology consultant and holds a degree in political science from the University of Michigan, Dearborn.