Sunday, October 24, 2010

Political careerists will still infest Michigan's legislature

One oft-repeated rap against term limits is that the legislature now consists of inexperienced "amateurs." In fact, from top to bottom, those who preside over Michigan's government establishment are political careerists. This reality is illustrated by an analysis of candidates running for the 81 open seats in the state Legislature this year: 72 of the likely winners are already members-in-good-standing of the bipartisan political class.

Here are the details: Of the 78 Democrat and Republican candidates who have at least some chance of winning one of the 52 open state House seats this year, 60 are individuals who have been immersed in government to some degree. Among these 60 are 33 current or past officeholders (five mayors, six city council members, nine county commissioners, six township trustees or supervisors, and seven school board members); eight current or past congressional, legislative or Detroit city council staffers; three relatives of current or former legislators; and one termed-out state senator. Eight more are current or past local government appointees or managers, four are current or past public school employees, and three are former state employees.

Twenty-two of these government-oriented House candidates are virtually guaranteed general election winners in "one-party" districts. In 13 of 26 competitive House races both candidates have previous government involvement, and in approximately nine of the rest the government candidate is the front-runner. That adds up to 44 open House seats where it's likely the next representative will be a government insider even before going to Lansing. (District-by-district matchups here.)

On the other side of the Capitol, at least 28 of the 29 new state Senators will also fit that description (27 of the likely winners are current or past state representatives.)

The defining characteristic of political careerists is an ambition to avoid the hard accountability of a "real job" in the private sector for the rest of their working lives. Instead, they seek to live comfortably, feel important and enjoy social benefits by progressing from one elected or appointed government position to another until retiring sometime in their 50s with a nice taxpayer-funded pension. (Note that 9-to-5 civil service jobs are not a preferred-part of this personal agenda.)

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