The vote was close, but it was not close enough to rescue Representative Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc) from losing his job. Scott is 29 years old and once was pegged as a rising Republican star. He told a group of supporters that he and Republican reformers in Lansing are the targets of special interests.
“We took the state by storm and we made fundamental changes and we had the establishment government unions living in our community, trying to overturn the will of the voters and we just came up a little bit short in that fight,” said Scott.
All told, $225,000 or more was spent by both sides in the campaign, making this a very expensive legislative race. South Genesee County residents were bombarded since August with TV and radio ads, brochures stuffed in doors, and mailings.
Scott was targeted for recall in a campaign that was largely funded by the Michigan Education Association.
Scott was endorsed by the teacher’s union in his first campaign, but he earned the ire of teachers and organized labor this year as chair of the House Education Committee. He was instrumental in enacting new tenure standards that make it easier to fire teachers for poor performance. The recall ballot language also cited Scott’s support for K- through-12 school spending cuts, and for extending the state income tax to seniors’ pensions.
The last successful legislative recall campaign in Michigan was in 1983 when two Democratic state senators who supported an income tax hike were toppled by voters in Oakland and Macomb counties.
The winners in the recall battle cheered, danced the night away, and toasted their success at a bar on the other side of Grand Blanc. But Doug Pratt of the Michigan Education Association said the recall should send a serious message to Lansing.
“This isn’t the direction we want to be on. This isn’t the direction that voters sent their lawmakers to Lansing to go with,” Pratt said. “Paul Scott was held accountable tonight for his votes to cut education funding, tax pensions, and to hand that money over to special interests.”
Turnout was unusually high for an off-year election. About one in four registered voters in the southern Genesee County district cast ballots. Off-year participation typically runs closer to 14 percent.
The recall election is widely seen as an early measure of voters’ discontent with what Scott, Governor Rick Snyder, and Republicans in Lansing have been up to.
Bill Ballenger edits the newsletter “Inside Michigan Politics.”
“It’s significant because it’s a microcosm of everything that happened this year with the Snyder legislative agenda and what the majority Republicans did with it,” he said.
“If we didn’t have this election, how could we actually tell how people really feel about what happened this year in Lansing in the state Capitol?” said Ballenger. “ And I’m not sure that’s a really valid judgment or assessment, but this is the only game in town.”
There could be more recall elections next year.
Republicans have launched a counter-offensive aimed at Democrats. There are currently 32 petition drives underway targeting lawmakers from both parties.
The state House seat will be vacant until after the governor calls a special election. The district is considered a toss-up that could easily go to either party.
Paul Scott says he may run for the seat again.