Tuesday’s primary brought interesting shifts in the land of the Windmill.
One big shift, was the return of Jim Talen. Twenty years ago, Jim was part of a crew that led the challenge to the hegemony of Dutch Republican politics that then dominated the region’s political life. His was a practical, election-focused approach — he was an early adapter of computers, databases and a variety of mailings. Around him gathered a team of campaign workers who in turn fanned out to other campaigns in the area. In 1992, Jim won the first of 4 terms on the County Commission.
In 2006 the election itch began again, with an unsuccessful run for the County Commission (CC16). In 2008 he emerged somewhat refashioned from his earlier days and ran a successfulcampaign to defeat long-time incumbent Paul Mayhue. Allied with radio personality Robert S, Talen positioned himself as “new school” to Mayhue’s “old school.”
But Paul Mayhue wasn’t the only one to fall.
In the far burbs, two long-time County Commissioners Fritz Wahlfield (CC-2, Algoma, Sparta) and David Morren (CC-10, Caledonia, Gaines) also were defeated. Again by “New school” ideas. In this case, that of Farm Preservation.
And Justin Amash (MI-72) turned in the biggest victory, showing the door to “old school” Linda Steil and the rather more responsible Ken Yonker. His youth and brash politics mark this new approach and touches on communities looking for change.
Even when Old School didn’t win, it was threatened.
In the City, the “Old School” style of Jim Vaughn (CC-17) was put on notice when 25 percent of voting Democrats refused to vote for him.
The threat to Old School politics also lies at the door of Rep. Robert Dean. Bob Synk’s strong showing in CC-19 relative to Dean’s is one sign. The failure to carry Ottawa Hills (3-18 ) is another. A third would be to note that the precincts where votes for Dean were in majority, were largely confined to the neighborhoods between Lake, Plymouth, Alger and Eastern — a very old school approach. The underlying dynamics of the election still favor Dean, but the shifting currents of “new school” approaches means even safe seats are a little more precarious.