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Republican William Broman doesn't stand a chance, but we should thank him for trying

Oct 27, 2016

Let’s say you were a candidate for the Michigan Legislature, and you got to run against a guy who has been convicted of eight felonies and is now being charged with three more.

Your opponent, the incumbent, has also been evicted from his home in the past for non-payment of rent.

Additionally, the state has had to pay more than $85,000 in legal fees to attempt to defend your opponent from a sexual harassment charge from a man who worked for him.

You might think the challenger would win by a landslide.

But in fact, William Broman is a huge underdog.

He is the Republican nominee in the 1st Legislative District, which includes Harper Woods, Grosse Pointe Woods, and Grosse Pointe Shores. Broman, a 24-year-old with a degree in biomedical engineering, should win all those places easily. But most of the district consists of part of the extremely poor east side of Detroit.

Most have remained loyal to the incumbent, Brian Banks, despite his legal troubles.

Those voters are almost all black, and never vote for anyone other than a Democrat. Most have remained loyal to the incumbent, Brian Banks, despite his legal troubles.

This summer, a young attorney named Pamela Sossi, tried to beat Banks in the Democratic primary, but Banks still won. This happened even though the Michigan Attorney General’s office had not only filed new felony charges against Banks, it indicated they might seek to have him jailed for life as a habitual offender.

The 39-year-old Banks, whose previous convictions were for things like credit card fraud and bad checks, is now charged with falsifying information in order to get a personal loan. His attorney says the charges are false and politically motivated.

Yet, believe it or not, Banks’ legal troubles are not why William Broman is in this race – though he admits it made it easier for him to decide to run.

He thinks he has ideas that would benefit the people.

He knows this is a district drawn to be totally safe for any Democrat. But he believes in challenging the conventional wisdom. He doesn’t think it is good for the people if they think “this is a district that Republicans think they can’t possibly win, and Democrats can’t possibly lose.”

Broman is all in on this. He’s quit his job and is spending seven or eight thousand of his own money, and has about that much more in contributions.

“I go into neighborhoods nobody else will go to, and talk to people nobody else talks to,” he told me.

He is a genuine Republican who admires present and former Speakers of the House Paul Ryan and John Boehner.

He can’t stomach Donald Trump, and hasn’t decided how he’ll vote for President.

Experts think he doesn't have the slightest chance, but I think we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for trying.

But Broman does have an innovative set of well-developed policy positions on his campaign website that aren’t always conventionally Republican. He’d like to greatly increase child care assistance and move jobs and job training centers into disadvantaged neighborhoods.

Broman has interesting ideas about education technology and wants a uniform standard for sexual assault prosecution on all Michigan campuses. A lot of legislators are going to be elected next month who have far fewer ideas.

The question is whether Broman can persuade voters to consider him. Experts think he doesn’t have the slightest chance, but I think we owe him a huge debt of gratitude for trying.   

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.