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McCotter explains what's next; opponent thrilled to be on the ballot

Former Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jammed with his blues band after announcing his run for the presidency over the July 4th weekend in 2011.
Vincent Duffy
Michigan Radio
Republican Congressman Thaddeus McCotter jammed with his blues band after announcing his run for the presidency over the July 4th weekend.

The race for the seat in the Michigan 11th Congressional District was expected to be an incumbent representative running for re-election in a safe district. Political observers were stunned to learn Congressman ThaddeusMcCotter’s campaign messed up. The Congressman’s name will not appear on the ballot in the primary election in August.

It’s hard to understate what a colossal mistake this was. Representative McCotter has won a seat in Congress five times before. Hiscampaign has gathered signatures for nominating petitions five times before. It’s routine. Get a thousand people to sign a petition. But the Secretary of State’s office says of the two-thousand signatures submitted, fewer than 250 are valid. The rest photocopied. (see petitions here courtesy MIRS)

The Congressman has asked for an investigation.

TM: There are irregularities. We’re asking they be summarily rejected by the Board of Canvassers.  And, again, ask the appropriate authorities to get to the bottom of it, a) to protect the integrity of the petition filing process; b) so the public, including me, can get to the bottom of this.

LG: So, you have to run as a write in candidate. Just explain to us how tough that is.

TM: It’s a very high hill to climb, and I believe it’s possible or I wouldn’t be doing it, asking people to support it. What you have to do is get people to know that there’s an extra step to being able to vote for you in the August primary. You cannot use stickers; you cannot use stamps. You have to write in the name –and it can be variations as long as it’s clear who you intend to vote for.

LG: Now, you said in your op-ed in the Detroit News, “the buck stops here with me for the failure to file sufficient petition signatures,” but I’m wondering what culpability do you have if it’s found these irregularities are some kind of fraud?

TM: Uh, the people who commit the fraud have the culpability for that. The failure to file sufficient petitions is clear. It’s my name on the affidavit.   But, having no knowledge of the fraud and being as shocked probably as the first victim of it, I want to get to the bottom of it.

Representative McCotter says no one on his campaign staff has been fired or disciplined. He’s waiting for the Attorney General to investigate and says without any facts, he won’t allow a “witch hunt.”

While the McCotter campaign is cleaning up this mess, the result is there will be only one name on the Republican ballot for the 11th Congressional District, Kerry Bentivolio, a veteran, and a school teacher who keeps bees and reindeer.  He’s a conservative who wants smaller government and smaller debt. Mr. Bentivolio was teaching today, so we talked with his campaign spokesman, Bob Dindoffer.

BD: We were floored. We got into this thing trying to just spread a message about government accountability, transparency and just the size and scope of government. And, all of a sudden we’re going to get hammer that message home.  We’re thrilled.

LG: Now, this leaves your candidate, Kerry Bentivolio, as the only candidate on the Republican ballot during the August primary.

BD: That’s absolutely right.

LG: What’s that going to mean for where you were yesterday and where you are now?

BD: Geez. I mean, it’s a difference between being a thousand-to-one shot and being, you know, honestly neutral observers believe we’re the front runner.  There is a serious challenge in getting folks to go out to the polls and write in the name of a candidate as opposed to going to the polls and checking a box.

The two Democrats running for their party’s nomination in the 11th Congressional District are Bill Roberts and Syed Taj are likely nearly excited at this turn of events. A Democratic strategist says unless another major blunder takes place, a Republican will still win the seat.

And he expects if McCotter loses the Republican primary, he’ll run as an independent in the fall. 

Representative McCotter has gone from a brief flirtation of running for President last fall, to a tough battle just to retain his seat in Congress.


Lester Graham reports for The Environment Report. He has reported on public policy, politics, and issues regarding race and gender inequity. He was previously with The Environment Report at Michigan Public from 1998-2010.