MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (AP) — Next year's U.S. Senate race is looking like it could be a rematch between longtime Democratic incumbent Carl Levin and Republican Andrew "Rocky" Raczkowski.
Raczkowski spoke briefly Saturday at a Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference luncheon, the usual biennial kickoff for the following year's elections. He didn't commit while he was on the island to running, but says he has set up an exploratory committee and is considering challenging Levin a second time.
Another Republican, state Rep. Jack Hoogendyk of Kalamazoo, told The Associated Press by telephone Sunday that he's also considering the race. He said he has received encouragement from party leaders and from supporters who got to know him during his six-month bid for governor in 2005. Hoogendyk withdrew without challenging Dick DeVos for the 2006 GOP nomination and is serving his last two-term in the state House.
Raczkowski, 38, said his military service overseas since his unsuccessful 2002 run against Levin have given him a different outlook than when he took on Levin while still a state representative from Farmington Hills. Now a businessman and major in the U.S. Army Reserves, he said he has lost six friends in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He now considers himself less a Republican and more an advocate for U.S. soldiers and those hurt by Michigan's troubled economy.
"I am vehemently disappointed with this administration's mismanagement of the war and with the fact that they don't seem to have much of a receptive ear to this economy and the automotive ear," Raczkowski said, speaking of decisions made by President Bush.
But while Levin, head of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has been pushing a proposal that seeks to restrict the mission of troops to fighting terrorists and training the Iraqi security force, Raczkowski doesn't want to go that far.
"He's always been a thoughtful gentleman," Raczkowski said. "But quitting now is a practice that I as a soldier cannot accept and that we can't stand as a country."
I always thought Rocky could have been a very good candidate in 2002. If the party supported him, I think we could have pulled off the upset of Levin. He was right on the issues. He was an excellent speaker. He had presense. He's excellent in working a crowd. He's won three times in a very difficult district out in Farmington Hills (a district that voted for Gore and Kerry). The two things he did lack are name recognition and money. The first part is tough to find and those who don't have it need to work at it for years to correct it. I'm not a good public speaker. I can get by if I have to, and it took me a long time just to do that. The last parts - money and name recognition - can be corrected in a short period of time with help. If Rocky runs and is our candidate - we need to help him.
One thing that irked me to no end back in 02 (and still does) was what the state party did to him. It was despicable. They threw him to the wolves and gave him no support whatsoever. At the state convention, they were gutless wonders and didn't let him speak until the convention was practicaly over. The keynote speakers was finished and the closing occured. Most of the crowd left. I was on my way out, until I saw that Rocky was speaking. They did that since they were so afraid of Rocky upending the gubenatorial candidate, Dick Posthumus. Instead of having Rocky help raise the chance of Posthumus winning, they pushed him down. That wasn't right, and I hope Saul learned from State Party 02's mistakes. I do not expect there to be a repeat. I should mention that a repeat abandonment here would just allow Levin to help other candidates across the country, instead of keeping his money here at home.
Most people don't know much about Carl Levin, or his stances on the issues which are out of step with Michigan. He's just "there", and relies on his images of "rolling up his sleeves" to work, backing the auto industry, and a foreign policy stance that changes with the wind. What he does effectively for the state in the last 15 years except vote right on CAFE standards - which he is now caving on with boss Reid forcing him in line?
Could Rocky win? With support - I think he can win. His stances on issues are closer to mainstream Michigan. His well-rounded experience in the military, business, and legislative backgrounds also give him a good boost. His speaking ability can sell people that he meets - but he can't do it if he's thrown to the wolves with no help whatsoever, as was the case in 02.
He got 38% there with no help. We need between 11-12% more. That's tough, but certainly possible. Candice Miller was crushed by David Bonior before she beat another instituion in Richard Austin. Mike Simpson lost at least twice before winning. Let's get some guts for once and actually target a seat that conventional wisdom says we can't win.