Trevor Thomas, the 28 year old gay progressive who had the backing of his former boss, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and scores of LGBT movement leaders, lost his open primary race for Michigan’s Third Congressional District against attorney Steve Pestka, Tuesday night. Pestka, 60, a former judge and State Representative had the backing of labor unions, Sen. Carl Levin and the local and state Democratic Party leadership. With 99% of the precincts reporting, Pestka had 13,322 votes to Thomas’s 9,247. Pestak will face Republican Tea Party darling Rep. Justin Amash, 32, in November.
After calling Pestka to congratulate him on the victory, Thomas released this statement:
“I spoke with Judge Pestka tonight and congratulated him on his victory in this hard-fought campaign. I told him that I look forward to working together to defeat Justin Amash in the fall. Democrats and folks from across the political spectrum are united in feeling that Representative Amash is out of touch with West Michigan values, and we need to make sure that we unseat him in November.”
“He was very gracious and he’s committed to help however he can,” Pestka said. “I’m glad that happened.”
Indeed, it must have been a hard phone call to make – considering that Pestka believes in so much Thomas finds difficult to digest – including a very strong Pro-Life record that includes a previous vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Ironically – Planned Parenthood might be a factor in the race – with Pestka apparently being more conservative than Amash. The ultra-right wing John Birch Society-owned online publication The New American reports:
[F]reshman Michigan Republican Representative Justin Amash (Freedom Index rating 93 percent) will face off in November against former state senator Steve Pestka, who prevailed against a former staffer for the pro-homosexuality Human Rights Campaign in the contentious Democratic primary.
The libertarian-leaning congressman has not been a stranger to local controversy himself. Amash ran afoul of the Michigan Right to Life Committee back in March for voting “Present” on a bill that would strip funding from Planned Parenthood. Amash explained on his Facebook page that while he was 100 percent pro-life and eager to stop federal funding of abortion, he could not vote for an unconstitutional “bill of attainder” that punished a single organization by name, as the bill in front of him did, even an organization as reprehensible as Planned Parenthood.
Despite losing the local Right to Life Committee endorsement, Amash has been named as among the 35 most influential Republicans under 35 years of age by the District of Columbia Republican Committee. The freshman congressman has amassed a national following, and many consider Amash an ideological successor to the retiring Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
But that more-right-wing-than-thou contest won’t be the only one the nation will watch. Also angling for a comeback is extremely antigay Pete Hoekstra who will try to unseat US Sen. Debbie Stabenow (92% rating from HRC ).
Trevor Thomas argued that Pestka and Amash were both “out of touch” with the values of the congressional district that includes Grand Rapids and Battle Creek. Hoekstra is arguing that Stabenow is out of touch with the values of the state. Who’s right? It must be noted that the Grand Rapids police were called to investigate threats of rape and antigay violence at last weekend’s Gay Day event at Cherry Park – but did nothing. (A Change.org petition has already been created in response. )
In his report on Thomas’ loss, Gay City News editor Paul Schindler reported:
In his 2010 campaign, in addition to his support from Tea Party leaders, Amash enjoyed endorsements from the FreedomWorks PAC, founded by industrialist David Koch and chaired by former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey, the Club for Growth, an anti-tax lobby that puts enormous rightward pressure on the Republican Party, and Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
Though redistricting has added Battle Creek to the Michigan Third, tilting it slightly more Democratic, the Cook Political Report scores the district as +6 Republican, meaning that in recent elections the GOP has outperformed its national showing by six percentage points there. Cook rates the November contest as a “likely Republican” win.
But anyone who follows Rachel Maddow knows it’s way more right-wing than that. In a series of reports last April, Maddow reported on how the Republican-controlled Michigan State Legislature has been willfully and blithely “circumvent(ing) democracy with shady vote corner-cutting.”
But the crowning glory to this apparent GOP slide into right wing nuttiness is the GOP primary victory of reindeer raiser and high school teacher (!) Kerry Bentivolio, who prevailed against well-funded, establishment backed write-in candidate, former state senator Nancy Cassis to replace Rep. Thad McCotter. The Birch-backed The New American reported:
When the high school teacher became the likely GOP nominee, the GOP establishment rallied against the Ron Paul fan and Federal Reserve critic, eventually settling on Cassis, who put up $200,000 of her own money in what turned out to be a failed write-in campaign. While Cassis had the endorsement of much of the GOP establishment, Bentivolio had won the endorsement of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, his son Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, and Michigan Congressman Justin Amash.
Bentivolio also benefited from outside support; the Texas-based Liberty for All Super-PAC invested $650,000 in Bentivolio’s victory in the weeks before the primary. “Now we have another principled Constitutionalist to fight for our freedom in Congress,” the Super-PAC boasted on its Facebook page after results of the primary were reported.
Here’s Rachel explaining the reindeer man as only she can do it: