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Lessenberry says Sen. Virgil Smith a bigger disgrace than Courser-Gamrat

Sep 15, 2015

It took 15 hours and plenty of drama last Friday before Todd Courser resigned and Cindy Gamrat was expelled from the state House.

Republican House leaders basically kept everyone at their seats and went through vote after vote before getting the two Tea Partiers out of the House.

But Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry wonders what Democrats are doing about their own problem: Sen. Virgil Smith Jr., D-Detroit.

Lessenberry believes state Smith is a greater disgrace than Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.

Lessenberry says there doesn’t seem to be any doubt that Sen. Smith put people in danger when he shot up his ex-wife’s Mercedes last May on a crowded city street.

That certainly seems like behavior “unbecoming of a state senator.”

Smith’s case is in court and he’s facing criminal charges, but he still votes in the Senate. And Republicans, the party in charge, seem to like having Smith in the Senate, says Lessenberry.

“For two reasons. No. 1: He often votes with them. On issues like limiting car insurance benefits, well, he’s voted for Republicans … also, he’s sort of a poster boy for bad behavior. To have a Democrat out there to sort of counter the impression of Courser and Gamrat, the misbehaving Republicans in the House, is probably good politically for them,” says Lessenberry.

Lessenberry also points out that Smith likely enjoys collecting his weekly check of $1,378.55, so why resign?

There are no calls for him to resign, as far as Lessenberry knows.

In the end, Lessenberry says this is a problem, to some extent, of term limits.

Lessenberry says Smith was elected, in large part, because his father, Virgil Smith Sr., is a well-known political name in Detroit. Smith Sr. is a judge now and once served as state representative and a state senator. Smith Sr. was term-limited out, so Smith Jr. filled the vacancy.

“Anyone who has studied this knows that term limits have been an utter disaster on just about every level,” says Lessenberry.