Democrat consultant: 'The idea that you can do a bunch of successful recalls is unrealistic'
In the wake of Republicans enacting right-to-work legislation, there has been a lot of talk about recalls. Most of the speculation involves unions attempting to recall GOP lawmakers who voted for the law.
However, recall efforts are expensive. And that could force the unions to focus their efforts. That could bring Republicans who voted against right to work in the picture.
There were six in the House: Reps. Anthony Forlini, R-Harrison Township; Ken Goike, R-Ray Township; Ken Horn, R-Frankenmuth; Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan; Pat Somerville, R-New Boston;and Dale Zorn, R-Ida. Four Republicans in the Senate voted against right to work: Sens. Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba; Mike Green, R-Mayville; Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, and Tory Rocca, R-Sterling Heights.
Some of these lawmakers are among the most vulnerable to recall. First, some represent marginal districts, with bases that are close to 50-50 in terms of party affiliations. Second, conservatives might be less likely to turnout in a recall election to defend a lawmaker who voted “no” on right-to-work legislation.
People involved with recall efforts in the past said it was possible that recall efforts against Republicans could be targeted toward those who voted 'no' on right-to-work legislation.
Leon Drolet, director of the Michigan Taxpayer Alliance, headed the unsuccessful effort to recall former House Speaker Andy Dillon in 2008. Drolet said the unions could try to recall Republicans who opposed the law, but they would need to be careful doing so.
"If they run a recall the way they usually try to run a campaign, what they're looking at is gaining political power," he said. "They don't just decide — let's go after this person or let's go after that one. They try to determine which districts they'll have the best chance of succeeding in. It would be ludicrous to do anything else.
"So, yeah, I think there is a possibility the unions could go after some lawmakers who didn't vote in favor of right to work," Drolet said. "But I also think it would be a very tough decision to make. Most voters in recall elections aren't going to get encouraged or excited about a recall that's just an attempt to grab more political power. And when it's a recall, you're out in the open. You really can't hide your motives."
Lansing election attorney Eric Doster said he thinks unions potentially attempting to recall some lawmakers who voted “no” on right to work is a real possibility.
"That idea is not at all unrealistic," Doster said. "The recalls would not be limited to a universe of lawmakers who voted for freedom to work. Look at the recalls the unions attempted back in 2011. They didn't just go after lawmakers over the emergency manager law. They went after Republican lawmakers for anything they thought they might be vulnerable on.
"Recalls are nothing more than attempted election re-dos," Doster said. "The unions wouldn't feel restrained to just the freedom to work issue. But if they do it again in 2013, they could find out that the Republicans might get serious about trying to recall Democrats as well."
Mark Grebner, president of Practical Political Consulting, a Democratic political consultant, said his firm played the major role in coordinating the signature gathering for the successful recall of former House Education Chairman Paul Scott in 2011. Grebner said that recall efforts against GOP lawmakers who opposed right to work could happen.
"Maybe they would do that. Anything is possible," Grebner said. "They could always find some other issue to use as a reason if they wanted to."
However, Grebner also said he doubts recalls against any of the Republicans would be worth it.
"It's not easy to recall a lawmaker in Michigan," Grebner said. "It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of work. I think the Paul Scott recall showed that you can recall someone, but the idea that you can do a bunch of successful recalls is unrealistic."
Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation recently that changes the rules for legislative recalls. Petition signature gatherers now have 60 days to get signatures instead of 90 days and recall petition language must be factual, among other changes.
Affecting the balance of power in the Legislature would require four successful recalls of Republican House members. This could bring the House to a 55-55 balance between Democrats and Republicans, but only if Democrats managed to win all of the replacement races.
“I just don't think it can be done,” Grebner said. ”You might successfully do one – maybe two at the most. But look at all the money and time spent on the Paul Scott recall. And what did the Democrats really get for it? They removed one state representative who was really ripe fruit for the picking. Then, even with all of his vulnerabilities, Scott only lost by a few hundred votes.”