Opinion

In Support of Gretchen Driskell for Congress

My fellow Salinians, I humbly ask for a few minutes of your time to tell you about the reason I joined the Michigan Democratic Party. His name is Tim Walberg, and he has unfortunately represented me and many of you in Congress off and on since 2006. I find his behavior in office antithetical to the principles our nation was founded upon, and the liberty and justice that we were promised in the Pledge of Allegiance. If you will indulge me, I will tell you how, for a short while, I ran against him for his seat, and why I’m supporting his opponent, Saline’s own Gretchen Driskell, in the race against him this November.

For most of my adult life, I was an independent when it came to politics. I voted for Ralph Nader for president in 2000, believing that the 2-party system was broken and we needed someone outside of it to fix things. (I still think we need to change how we vote to allow third-party and independent participation, but that is a topic for another time.) The George W. Bush administration made the moral differences between the two parties undeniable, and turned me into a solid Democratic voter. I was proud to cast my vote for Obama, and fooled myself into thinking that his presidency meant that racism in our country was over. The rise of the so-called “Tea Party” during the Obama years shattered that particular illusion. Purportedly about fiscal responsibility, the Tea Party’s true goal was white supremacy, an agenda founded in injustice and ignorance, and one I could not abide. Yet still, if asked, I maintained that I was an independent.

Tim Walberg voted in lock step with the Tea Party for the last 6 years of Obama’s presidency (he was thankfully and all-too-briefly displaced by Mark Schauer from 2009-2011). Once Trump came into office, suddenly all of Tim’s fears about the national debt dried up, and he voted for tax cuts that resulted in trillion-dollar deficits even before the pandemic. Trump’s rise to power, and Walberg’s support of him, pushed me to a decision point last year. No longer would I sit on the sidelines and root for my preferred candidates as an independent. I would become a candidate, and kick Walberg out of office my damn self if need be. I joined the Michigan Democratic Party, and asked a friend of mine who I could talk to about running. He directed me to Chris Savage, chair of the Washtenaw Dems, who gave me Gretchen Driskell’s email address.

I first met Gretchen at the Chipotle in Briarwood Mall. She was kind enough to meet me - a total stranger - for lunch, and talk with me about the possibility of running. I had to look up her picture on Wikipedia so I would know who to greet when she came in. We spoke about the issues, and she gave me some advice for who to talk to next. At the time, she wasn’t considering a run, so I went ahead with my plans. I traveled to all 7 counties of the 7th Congressional District to talk with Democrats about running for Congress. At each place I talked, I met many like-minded people who were tired of being represented by Mr. Walberg. I was forthright about my lack of political experience, and I pledged to step back if someone with a better shot at winning than I did were to run. It was not about me, after all, but about putting someone of good conscience into office in the 7th.

Near the end of last year, Gretchen met me at the City Limits Diner here in Saline to let me know she was once again considering a run. I knew if she entered the race, I would have to make good on my promise, and step back from my campaign. I had gotten used to the idea that it would be me fighting to unseat Walberg come November 2020, so it wasn’t easy for me. But, I knew that in order to win, I would have to raise a huge amount of money (another thing we need to change about our political system), and I had no experience doing that. Gretchen did; she raised over 2 million dollars in each of her runs in 2016 and 2018. She also did much better her second time around than her first, and was only a few thousand votes shy of a win in a gerrymandered district. When she made her candidacy official, I decided to exit the race and do what I could to help Gretchen get elected.

So now I come to you, my fellow Salinians, to ask you to help me do just that. Not all of you are in the 7th District, because the gerrymander line created to protect Tim Walberg cuts right through our community. But for those of you who do live in the 7th like I do, I urge you to find out what Walberg has done in office, and vote for Gretchen in November. All of his votes are a matter of public record, and there are several websites where you can find out about them in short order. A few highlights: In 2007, he voted against banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and more recently, on a trip to Ukraine, he advised Ukrainians to add language to their constitution to prevent gay & lesbian couples from gaining the right to marry there. On the environment, he is firmly in the pocket of fossil fuels, and he claims - in defiance of the evidence - that only God can affect the climate. He voted against a bipartisan bill to prevent PFAS contamination just last year (if you haven’t heard of PFAS yet, you ought to look it up). Finally, he voted against the articles of impeachment, when the fact is, as Mitt Romney stated, Trump was guilty of doing the things the articles alleged.

Because of these and other votes, and for his support of the criminal, racist, and liar Donald Trump, I believe we need new representation in Washington. Gretchen Driskell is a good person who will work to make the lives of people in our district better. She, like me, is a Democrat, but she will not be a party-line voter in the service of moneyed interests like our current representative. Many of you know her from her time as Saline’s mayor, where she served in a nonpartisan capacity to get things done for our community. Let’s get her elected to the U.S. House of Representatives so she can continue working for all of us there. Thank you for your time, and I hope you will join me in voting for Gretchen Driskell for Congress in November!

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