Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

Moving Furniture in SE Grand Rapids

Tuesday’s primary had several races of interest. Even with a low turnout in the city, one could see the rearrangement of political furniture underway. Here are some of the highlights:

Talen Returns

This is the big news. In 2006 Jim Talen lost a tight race in CC-16 against veteran Paul Mayhue. That year, the vote was split between Talen, Mayhue and Robert Womack (known on local radio as Robert S). In 2008, Talen enlisted the support of Robert S and came home with a solid 61/39 win over Mayhue.

In post-election interviews Paul Mayhue attributed his loss to a lower turnout — the election saw a drop-off of 22 percent, or more than 300 votes. Although Paul had been out doing GOTV in some minority neighborhoods, Jim’s door to door work in Heritage Hill (2-7, 2-9, 2-16) plus help from Robert S made the difference.

In looking back, Jim notes something of a sea change underway. After 20 years, there was a perception in the neighborhood that Paul was “old school.” Jim’s alliance with Robert S (definitely “new school”) and with the progressive wing in Heritage Hill (City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss and commissioner candidate Ruth Kelly) positions him for a more progressive stance on the County Commission somewhat to the left of Brandon Dillon and Dave LaGrand.

The election was also bittersweet one for many, since 20 years ago Paul and Jim had stood side-by-side as reformers on the County Commission and within the Democratic Party. It was clear going that was going to be the last election for either Jim or Paul.

Anybody but Vaughn?

Next door in CC-17, Jim Vaughn may have run unopposed, but most voters still rejected him. One fourth of all voters for Dean did not bother to vote for Vaughn. Couple this with the 495 for the nominal Republican candidate, and the total anti-Vaughn vote of 680 beat the Commissioner’s 651. This is not an especially good sign. The alliance between the conservative Dutch and the conservative black communities stand posed to do the hitherto unthinkable, vote in a Republican in the heart of the city. At the very least, this will likely encourage the Republican candidate for the general.

The mood of dissatisfaction could also be heard in Paul Mayhue’s words. When asked on WOOD-TV8 about the impact of his loss on minority representation, the commissioner said,

the minority community will have to go to Jim Talen and their pastors and preachers to deal with the issues that (they) want to be dealt with.

The failure to mention Vaughn speaks volumes.

Synk Swims

In Commission District 19, Bob Synk also provided some interesting moments of furniture moving. With the exeption of two precints (31, 38) Synk beat Rep. Robert Dean’s numbers by more than 20 percent. Synk’s strong pro-life creds certainly helped him here, but Rev. Dean is no slouch either. It may be the pro-life piece of Tietema eroded some of Dean’s support, or it may be that the SE side of town feels a lack of connection. In either case, Synk’s performance ought to raise storm warnings for Dean.

Filed under: Elections, , , , , , ,

What’s with Calvin?

NOTE: for those outside the Dutch community of W. Michigan — this post picks up a more inside game. Thanks for understanding.

Any discussion of life in West Michigan inevitably turns to the impact of the Dutch and that little college of theirs out on the Beltline. Calvin has been a home to progressive and liberal types (see the protest surrounding the appearance of Bush at commencement), and a generator of generations of engaged men and women, some in politics, some in the not-for-profit sectors.

And frankly, most of us in town have a somewhat ambivalent reaction to this engagement. A gathering of community activists can seem like a Calvin alumni association — as the recent informational/fundraising gathering of the local Matthew 25 group at David LaGrand’s made clear. On the Right, more than a few Republican campaigns have been like a gathering of Calvin alums as well (Ehlers being only the most prominent).

This role of cultural leadership, and its general presumption of competence is well known. But can this record, this presumption of civic neutrality remain, if the leadership takes an active, partisan role? Is Calvin at risk of moving farther Right?

The question came to sharp focus reading recent financial statements for the Amash campaign (candidate for SH-72). Among the $500 donors was Calvin’s president, Galen Byker. But it was only $500, right? A check of Fundraiser, reveals that the Bykers have contributed over $18,000 to national Republican campaigns — more than 10 percent of all gifts from that zip code. (UPDATE: a more thorough search from Campaign Money, reveals that the Bykers have given over $59,000 according to FEC filings.)  It’s hard to see the donation as social, or an attempt to get close to other big money donors like the DeVos family. (In some defense, Byker comes by his Republican creds honestly; his father, Gary Byker, served as a state senator from Hudsonville for 10 years, 1968-1978).

So we return to the question: Is this public visibility as a Republican supporter a good thing for the College? Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Community, , , ,


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