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Wednesday, August 31,2011

Republicans have recall eyes on Byrum

by Kyle Melinn

Since late spring, progressive types
angry about the public school cuts and the anti-union stuff coming out
of Republican-led Lansing have been passing around recall petitions.
They want Gov. Rick Snyder out. They want at least 26 legislative
lawmakers, too.


The efforts, by and large, aren’t going
anywhere. Collecting the thousands of signatures needed to get a recall
question on the ballot is hard. A ticked-off Jane Doe and her friends
aren’t going to stand outside a post office and pull this off.


But with a little money, anything is possible, as the Michigan Education Association proved last week.


The state teachers union dropped $25,000
in Genesee County, paying professional signature gatherers (yes, people
actually make a living at this) up to $4 a signature to get a recall
question for Rep. Paul Scott, the House Republicans’ education committee
chairman, on the Nov. 8 ballot.


The secretary of state needs to count the
signatures and make sure they have enough. There’s an appeal the
Republicans have filed that needs to be cleared. But it’s assumed
Scott’s recall will be put before voters.


The Republicans are not amused. Like the
GOP in Wisconsin, the party is fighting back with recall efforts of its
own against Democrats they feel are “standing in the way of progress.”


Fight fire with fire, as the saying goes.


The GOP is pledging at least 20 recall
efforts across the state, but six are in the works right now. Top on
their list: Democratic Rep. Barb Byrum of Onondaga.'


Why?


For one, Byrum is one of the few House
members representing a politically competitive district. Secondly, she’s
not up for re-election next year, giving the Republicans a chance to
mobilize volunteers and foot soldiers to win this 67th House District in
2012 even if the recall effort flops.


Lastly, recall fever has already struck
Byrum’s rural Ingham County district. Citizens in her hometown of
Onondaga who are ticked off over a proposed drag strip in their
community just turned in more than 300 signatures to recall three
township board members. It doesn’t matter that the five-member board
recently reversed its decision on the drag strip.


In Williamston, folks are going after
Mayor Michelle Van Wert. In Vevay Township, petitions are being
circulated against the supervisor, clerk and a trustee, who are being
targeted for having budgeted $23,000 for legal fees. It’s not in the
district, but in nearby Potterville, a recall attempt last week was
successful.


Technically, the Byrum recall is being
headed by Holt’s Robert Walter, who re-filed language Thursday against
Byrum for voting against the elimination of the Michigan Business Tax. A
clarity hearing has been scheduled for Aug. 24 in Judge George
Economy’s courtroom. Language going after Byrum for voting against
welfare reform was rejected as being unclear.


In reality, the drive is about political
payback against Democrats. She’s like the batter who gets hit by a pitch
in retaliation for something another player did. She’s in the wrong
place at the wrong time.


The real brains behind the operation is
Stu Sandler, who headed former Attorney General Mike Cox’s gubernatorial
campaign last year. Sandler just wrapped up a short interim stint as
the Michigan GOP’s executive director.


He said Byrum is in the same boat as most
other Democrats: She has consistently said no to the reforms and
decisions designed to cut government costs and increase accountability
of teachers and local elected officials.


Like in the Scott recall in Genesee
County, the X factor is money. How much are the Republicans willing to
spend and will they spend it to get signatures against Byrum? Sandler
won’t tip his hand, but there aren’t a lot of places across the state
the Republicans can go.


Outside of Byrum, I can count five or six
other House Democrats across the state that represent politically
competitive districts, sitting members who could realistically be in
trouble during a recall election.


Whomever they target with paid petitions,
gatherers will be trouble. As long as roughly 10,000 signatures are
filed by late November, a recall question will be put on the Feb. 28
ballot. The other question on that ballot? The Republican presidential
primary.


So if the Republicans get the signatures
against Byrum, the Democrat will need to fight back against a wave of
Republicans rushing to the ballot box to vote for their nominee. Her
chances of surviving become much lower.


In the meantime, Byrum is staying quiet on the subject.
Given a chance to comment, she declined. Between her and her mom,
Dianne, they’ve represented Ingham County in county and state government
for nearly three decades. The Byrum name is good.


This recent recall angst, where voters
are seemingly jumpy about anything any elected official does, will put
that name to the test.

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