By Henry Teutsch
In one week the citizens of Michigan will vote on a range of local and statewide topics and for people hoping to be elected to public office. Each election is supposed to offer a chance to choose leaders or representatives that can perform better or as good as those they are replacing. The elections are supposed to allow voters a voice in policy that governs the state and affect the lives of residents and visitors alike. While this is how the process is supposed to work, the reality is very different.
State Representative John Olumba, Independent from Detroit, wants to be elected as the next state senator as a Democrat from Detroit. Olumba had a public falling out with the Democrat leaders in the state legislature almost two years ago, just as he was elected, and as a result decided to leave the Democratic Party and become an independent. At this same time he began voting against the interests of the Democratic Party and for those of the Republican Party. The Republicans are the party in charge of state government.
When he left the Democratic Party the party leaders did not ask him to reconsider nor did they describe any pain or sorrow they may have felt with his departure. But the citizens of his district, who were not consulted about his change in party, had no voice in how the person they voted into office as a Democrat had abandoned the Democratic Party. Detroiters always vote for a Democrat when the election is on a partisan basis. This is an overwhelming fact. Olumba may have felt it was in his own best interest to leave the party but it wasn’t not in the best interests of citizens in Detroit.
As an independent Olumba gained more independence. He did not have to answer to the Democratic Leaders and instead could work with the Republican party to gain appointments on committees or other areas which he was denied as part of the Democratic caucus. Now however Olumba is again runing as a Democrat while holidng office as an independent.
In Michigan, when trying to get elected to state office, the easiest means of doing so is to belong to one of the two parties which are basically written into the constitution, the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. The rules regarding gaining a position on the ballot are easier if the candidate is a member of one of these parties. Further, in Detroit, a person must belong to the Democratic Party in order to get elected. Detroiters do not vote for independents to hold a partisan elective office. Olumba, being an astute politician, would know this as a fact and therefore be forced to again run for office as a Democrat. The fact that the Democrats would allow someone to manipulate their party for their own personal gain is troublesome and part of the problems in Michigan politics.
The Democratic Party has often been accused of ignoring the needs of its sole base or block of voters in the state, the city of Detroit. Democrats are often accused of not providing Detroit with adequate attention and representation. This activity by Olumba and the non-response by the state Democratic committee is an example of how or why many feel as through the Democratic Party feels irrelevance towards Detroit and some of the surrounding communities.
As in independent its likely that Olumba would not make it onto the ballot thereby preventing him from being considered for higher office. Olumba’s treatement of the constiuents and the callousness of the Democratic party on this and some other issues are part of what’s wrong in state politics.