News Story

The Conservative Evolution of Randy Richardville

The future majority leader of the Michigan Senate wants his critics to know that he is no liberal

Randy Richardville says he is tired of being described as a liberal Republican. The Michigan Republican state senator from Monroe says those critics are living in the past.

"You have to look at the big picture and not just pick apart my voting record from six years ago," Richardville said.

Richardville will become one focal point of the Republican chance to turn around Michigan when he ascends to the position of Senate Majority Leader. The decision will be made Tuesday and Richardville said he has no opposition.

He says his recent voting ratings don't support his label of liberal Republican. Richardville got a 96 percent rating from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. That rating measures how supportive Richardville was of legislation involving key "business climate" issues.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses gave Richardville a perfect 100 percent score for his votes in the last session.

"The guy had a 100 percent voting record. That's tough to beat," said Charlie Owens, director of the Michigan chapter of the NFIB. "I know there are some concerns because he sided with organized labor on some issues. Overall, he's been good to work with. We are not going to have a problem with him."

Richardville said he is more conservative.

"I have moved further to the right than I used to be," Richardville said.

Part of the reason is that his Senate district (17th) is more conservative than his House district (56th), he says.

Richardville said he is extremely conservative on issues such as abortion (pro-life) and gun rights.

He has supported union legislation.

As a recent example, he co-sponsored Senate Bill 731, legislation that would transfer $6.6 million in taxpayer money to the SEIU government employee union. It did it by creating a government "employer" for about 42,000 individuals who are hired by elderly or disabled Medicaid recipients. The Mackinac Center has filed a lawsuit over a similar set- up involving home day care providers.

And during the most recent election cycle, he received at least $3,300 from the Michigan Education Association, the state's largest public school employee union. Only one incumbent Republican lawmaker appears to have received more money from this union during the recent election cycle: Sen. Roger Kahn of Saginaw.

"I don't see unions as being evil," Richardville said. 'If you want to work in Michigan, I'm probably going to support you. Sometimes working with unions helps get them back to work. ... Some people on the far right want to throw anyone out because they work for a union organization. That's not me."

Once thought to be a solidly blue state, Michigan's politics dramatically shifted this year with the rise of the tea party movement. In 2008, Presidential candidate John McCain pulled out of Michigan well before Election Day. But just two years later, the GOP will seize control the state House, grab a huge majority in the Senate, take control of the governor's office, and win a majority in the state's Congressional delegation.

Richardville said he is proud of the tea party. Some from that movement are taking a wait-and-see approach with Richardville.

Norm Hughes, a member of the North Oakland Tea Party Patriots, says he has heard concerns about Richardville's past voting record.

"I am concerned that many conservative leaders have expressed fears Mr. Richardville has been chummy with large labor organizations and may not move right to work, or school reform, or an initiative to require public employees to contribute to their insurances or pensions, or a part time legislature, or badly needed changes in taxation, meaningful reductions in state spending, or other conservative initiatives," Hughes wrote in an e-mail.

"With Republicans in control of all branches of government, this is not the time to be timid. The people have spoken and we demand our governments cut costs and revert to the core principles of limited government. We hope Mr. Richardville will establish key conservative members among the leadership team and as key committee chairs. We hope we can develop a dialogue and working relationship with Mr. Richardville and the supermajority in the Senate to try to move Michigan to a state again open for business and the jobs that businesses create."

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.