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Commentary: The abbreviated congressman

I really don’t envy anybody, with the possible exception of my dog, who is going to spend his day napping while I run around Detroit. But part of me would like to be David Curson for the next few weeks.  Dave just got himself unexpectedly elected to Congress.

When his victory was certain yesterday, he said, quote: “I ran to do my part to help move our nation forward, ensuring that Social Security and Medicare are protected, a fair tax structure is put in place, and make every effort to bring jobs to Michigan.”

You can’t very well be against any of that. And if Congressman Curson manages to get the whole job done, he ought to go down in history as the most brilliant congressman ever. You see, he is going to serve in Congress for just about … six weeks.

That‘s right. Six weeks, starting when this week‘s vote is officially certified. Here‘s the scoop. Eariler this year, incumbent Congressman Thaddeus McCotter started behaving bizarrely, failed to qualify for the ballot, and abruptly resigned. Under the law, we had to hold a special election to fill the rest of his term.

So Michigan and various cash-poor communities like Garden City and Livonia had to shell out close to $700,000 to hold a primary last September. Curson won the Democratic primary, perhaps because he was the only candidate.

Kerry Bentivolio was the Republican candidate for both the special election and the full-two year seat. On Election Day, Bentivolio won the two-year term, beating Democrat Syed Taj.

Last summer I asked Dr. Taj why he didn’t run for the partial term too. He said he thought it might confuse voters to see his name on the ballot twice running for two separate things.

On election night, when it was clear that Bentivolio was winning the general election, I assumed he had won the special as well.  But he didn’t. Yesterday afternoon, we all discovered that Curson had beaten him by more than 7,000 votes.

But who is David Curson, anyway? He’s 63, a longtime United Auto Workers union rep from suburban Wayne County, a grandfather of two.

Curson says he didn’t run to get any of the usual congressional perks, and I believe him. And he doesn‘t qualify for some of the more famous ones, like a cushy pension and lifetime health care.

But even being a six-week wonder gets you some benefits. For the rest of his life, Curson will be entitled to a seat on the House floor to see the president deliver the State of the Union address.

When he leaves the first week of January, he can buy the desk and chair from his office if he wants to, can come back and wander around the house floor and house cloakroom anytime, and even keep up his membership at the House gym.

Plus, he’ll make about $29,000 for the next six weeks, which isn’t too shabby, and he can always tell his grandkids, “well, back when I was in Congress.”

What a country. Yesterday, in his victory announcement, Dave Curson said. “I ran to help break the gridlock in Congress.”  

Well, get to work, Dave. You’ve got a month and a half to do it.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio’s political analyst. Views expressed in the essays by Lessenberry are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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