hansen clarke

In our political system, sometimes the primary election is the election.

That’s the case in Metro Detroit’s 14th Congressional district, where the winner of the Democratic primary is virtually guaranteed a win November.

There are three major candidates in this year’s primary, making for a pretty competitive race in a very strange district.

A “geographical monstrosity”

Unless something very unusual happens, the winner of Tuesday night’s 14th district Democratic primary will easily win the November election.

And it appears that winner will be current Oakland County Congressman Gary Peters.

Peters topped a field of four Democrats, including another incumbent Congressman, to win the primary in the newly-redrawn 14th district.

That district zig-zags 75 miles across southeast Michigan, taking in much of Detroit and parts of Oakland County.

One of the more interesting primary races coming up this week is in Metro Detroit’s 14th Congressional district.

The race in that newly-redrawn district pits two incumbent Congressmen, Gary Peters and Hansen Clarke, against each other.

The 14th district used to cover most of Detroit’s west side and a few surrounding suburbs.

Now, it zig-zags across a big chunk of southeast Michigan—75 miles long, but only a half-mile wide in some parts.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke has introduced a bill that supporters say would make it easier for ex-felons to get jobs.

The bill would prohibit employers from asking about a job applicants’ criminal record until they’ve made that person a conditional job offer.

So-called “ban the box” ordinances are already on the books in Detroit, other cities and a few states.

Congressional primary races are normally pretty boring, whenever an incumbent is on the ballot. Mostly they win almost automatically. The only exceptions tend to be cases when redistricting pits two incumbents against each other.

That’s what is going on this year in the half-Detroit, half-suburban 14th District, where Democratic Congressmen Hansen Clarke and Gary Peters are going at it.

But there’s another primary race this year that is just as dramatic – but which is happening mostly under the radar.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says his political opponents are trying to smear him by raising questions about his racial heritage.

And on Tuesday, he made it clear he’s had enough.

Clarke is in a tough primary fight against three other Democrats in Michigan’s newly-redrawn 14th district.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

An influential, Detroit-based Political Action Committee has made its endorsements for the August primary elections.

The Fannie Lou Hamer PAC is led by the Reverend Wendell Anthony, who also heads the Detroit branch of the NAACP.

Anthony decried the latest round of state and federal re-districting. He said it’s diluted Detroit’s voting power and caused “political havoc” in the city.

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by someone attempting to smear Congressman Hansen Clarke, who faces a tough primary race next month to try and keep his job.

The writer told me that he had uncovered the fact that the congressman’s father was from a different country and gave his son a different name, which he later changed. Well, not only had I known that, I had written about it.

Clarke has never made a secret of either that his father was from Pakistan. Nor was it a secret that the boy was named Molik Hashem, a name he later Anglicized.

Although Michigan’s foreclosure activity declined in the first quarter of 2012, Michigan still has the 7th highest foreclosure rate in the country.

Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke represents Michigan’s 13th district. This week he's in Washington D. C. and hopes to introduce a bill that would suspend home foreclosures nationally for up to three years.

A small crowd camped out inside the building that houses state offices in Detroit Friday.

The group was there to protest Michigan’s emergency manager law, Public Act 4—and the state’s plans to use it in Detroit.

The protest was small and peaceful, if loud, with prayers and song. Tempers did flare briefly when private security guards tried to force protesters to leave.

U.S. Representative Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit) wants the state to hold off on plans to appoint a financial advisory board to oversee things in Detroit.

Clarke is quoted in the Detroit News saying "even though Detroit is in a financial crisis, this current financial board has the power and the focus to cut staff, outsource departments and sell assets. That's not the way you get out of a financial crisis."

From the Detroit News:

Clarke says he wants the federal government to provide relief similar to what was given to New York City in 1975 to keep it from going into bankruptcy.

Clarke, who says he's prepared to introduce legislation in Congress next week, says he understands it's a long shot, but said the idea is worth pursuing. Any legislation would have to be passed through the Republican-led House and Democratic-led Senate.

Mary Waters' Facebook profile

The race for Michigan's 14th Congressional District just got more crowded. The Detroit Free Press reports today that former state Rep. Mary Waters has thrown her hat in the ring, competing for a congressional seat representing the western half of Detroit.

Waters, a Democrat from Detroit, will be facing U.S. Reps. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Township), Hansen Clarke (D-Detroit), and Southfield Mayor Brenda Lawrence for her party's nomination, the Free Press reports.

While Waters nearly won a congressional seat back in 2008, the Free Press writes, her recent record is a bit more rocky:

Waters’ fortunes faded when she pleaded guilty in 2010 to a misdemeanor count of filing a false tax return related to a bribery scandal involving her one-time boyfriend Sam Riddle. She tried to withdraw her plea, but the U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed the plea last year and Waters was sentenced to one year of probation.

Michigan Radio's Rick Pluta reported last year on a related story involving Waters and Sam Riddle:

Associated Press

Michigan native and GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney is drawing fire from Michigan Democrats for remarks he made on a radio program this week.

At the very end of a radio interview Romney called the Chevy Volt “an idea whose time has not come.”

There was little context for the remark, but Democrats seized on it. They say it’s part of a pattern of Romney “rooting for the US auto industry to fail.”

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says “time is of the essence” for his proposed Detroit Jobs Trust Fund Act.

That’s legislation Clarke has proposed that would divert federal taxes collected in Detroit into a trust--about $2 billion annually over five years. That money would then be used to finance jobs and infrastructure projects.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says the growing “Occupy” movement is helping his efforts to push for student loan debt relief.

Clarke introduced a resolution in July encouraging Congress to focus on what he calls the country’s “true debt problem.” Student loan debt is expected to surpass $1 trillion this year.

Clarke says the issue is gaining traction in Congress as a way to lessen household debt and jumpstart the economy.

He says relief should focus on federally-guaranteed student loans.

“I also want to reduce and maybe eliminate much of the compounded interest and fees and penalties that borrowers have to pay on top of the principal that they borrowed. See, all these fees and everything, and the interest…that’s what really adds up," Clarke said.

Clarke calls President Obama’s proposals for student loan relief “a good start,” but says Congress also needs to act.

No one has introduced such comprehensive legislation yet.

Metro Detroit’s Homeland Security agencies say they’ve made progress on border security and disaster preparedness in the past 10 years. But they warn federal budget cuts and a new way of allocating Homeland Security grants could jeopardize that.

A U.S. House Homeland Security subcommittee held a hearing called “The State of Northern Border Preparedness: A Review of Federal, State and Local Coordination” at Wayne State University Friday.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke sits on the committee.

When Gary Peters runs for Congress next year, there’s one vote he has no chance of getting.

His own. Thanks to redistricting, he lives just barely outside the district he plans to run in. Over coffee yesterday, he told me that his daughter will be a high school senior, and out of consideration for her, the family plans not to move until after she graduates.

There’s nothing illegal about that. Congressmen don’t have to live in their districts. But it highlights the general insanity of the redistricting process. Peters, who has served two terms in the House of Representatives, will be one of two candidates for Michigan’s biggest, toughest and most exciting race for Congress next year.

But that race won’t happen next November. Nor will Peters be facing a Republican. This battle will be fought out next summer, and settled by the August primary. There, the two youngest and most vibrant members of the Democratic delegation will be forced to try to end each other’s career.

Congressman Hansen Clarke wants Detroiters to stop paying taxes to the federal government, that money should be put aside as a trust fund to help re-build the city.

Clarke made the case for his Detroit Jobs Trust Fund before the Detroit City Council Tuesday. That’s legislation he’s introduced that would divert the money Detroiters pay in federal taxes over five years.

Some would go to erase the city’s—and its school district’s—debt burden.

Michigan has six congressmen from the Democratic Party. Their ages are 85, 82, 82, 80, 54 and 52. One of the 82-year-old guys is retiring.

But Michigan is losing a seat in Congress, and so it has to lose another of these men. Our state has no women Democrats in the house, by the way. So, logically, which one should go?

Should the 85-year-old, whose own party stripped him of his committee chairmanship last year, retire? He has already served longer in the house than any man in history. Should the other 82-year-old retire? He sometimes appears confused in public; his office is chaotic and has been the target of ethics investigations.

What about the 80-year-old, who was his party’s nominee for governor before most of today’s citizens were alive?

Congressman John Conyers.
Photography Courtesy of www.conyers.house.gov

U.S. Rep. John Conyers is remaining mum on whether he'll run for re-election in the redrawn 13th District now that fellow Democratic incumbent Hansen Clarke says he'll run in Conyers' new district.

The two congressmen currently represent districts made up mostly of Detroit. Both were drastically redrawn by Republicans to add minority voters outside Detroit to make up for the city's shrinking population.

Democrats have said the new districts are examples of gerrymandering and are threatening to sue in federal court.

But Clarke spokeswoman Kim Bowman said Monday that Clarke had decided to switch districts rather than waiting. She says the 14th District includes more of the voters Clarke now represents.

Conyers' office is declining comment on whether the 82-year-old will swap districts with the 54-year-old Clarke.

Odd Man Out

Aug 22, 2011

There’s a game of musical chairs going on right now to determine which congressman will end up without a job a year from January. Yesterday, the likely outcome became a little more clear.

First of all, a little background: Michigan is losing a seat in congress because of national population shifts. The legislature redrew the boundary lines, and since Republicans control everything in Lansing, they made sure it would be a Democrat who lost out.

The only question was, which one? When the proposed new districts were revealed, it seemed at first that Oakland County’s Gary Peters would be the certain loser. The area in which he lives and fellow Democrat Sander Levin lives wound up in the same district.

The two men could run against each other in next August’s primary, of course, but on paper, Peters wouldn’t stand a chance.

Most of the new district is territory Levin has been representing, so he has home field advantage. Sandy Levin is also a sort of an icon. He was first elected to the state senate before Peters was six years old. He’s completing thirty years in Congress.

Congressman Hansen Clarke says Detroit needs a “SWAT team”-style barrage of emergency aid for the city.

Clarke is a first-term Congressman from Detroit. He says he plans to introduce legislation that will take existing federal taxes Detroiters pay, and make sure they stay in the city.

Clarke says that money should be directed toward keeping schools open longer, encouraging immigrant entrepreneurship, stabilizing the housing market and creating jobs.

Thousands of people waited for hours just to get inside Wayne County Community College Tuesday, where employers were ready to take names and resumes.

The job fair was part of a nationwide tour hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus. It’s meant to draw attention to unemployment among African Americans.

There was a time in Hansen Clarke’s life when the thing he wanted most in the world was to be a Congressman, back when he was twenty-five years old or so.

This year, that happened. He beat Detroit incumbent Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick in the Democratic primary a year ago, and then won an easy victory in his district, centered on his native east side of Detroit. Ever since, he’s been going a mile a minute.

“You know everybody told me that I needed to get experienced Washington staffers,” he said. But then “I found out what they knew how to do was tell me why things couldn’t be done and tell me I shouldn’t try.”  Clarke’s an easygoing guy.

But he has small patience for that kind of attitude. Early on, someone told him that drafting and developing a complex piece of legislation could sometimes take up to a year. “I don’t have a year,” he told me.  “Neither does Detroit or the nation.”

But Clarke told me he had learned an important lesson. He said he was now getting things done because he didn’t know that he couldn’t do them. This happened last month with the administration’s Homeland Security budget. The budget zeroed out funds for Detroit.

U.S. Reps. Dan Benishek and Hansen Clarke of Michigan have announced plans to tour together in each other's districts. The joint tours will be focused on ways to promote job creation in northern Michigan and Detroit.

Both are freshmen in Congress.

Benishek is a Republican from Crystal Falls whose district encompasses parts of the northern Lower Peninsula and all of the Upper Peninsula. Clarke is a Democrat from Detroit, and his district includes a portion of his home city and a number of its suburban communities.

Benishek and Clarke's offices say the lawmakers are planning to embark on the first joint tour in the U.P. on July 29. Benishek then will travel with Clarke in Detroit on Aug. 12.

A CBS poll on Monday shows 66% of Americans want an approach to balancing the federal budget that includes both spending cuts and tax increases.

Michigan Democratic Congressman Hansen Clarke talks about his concerns regarding the battle in Washington DC over the debt ceiling and budget negotiations. He says consumer debt is the real problem.

In the interview Clarke says:

"It's the personal debt that's crushing Americans and preventing our economy from rebounding."

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

The Associated Press reports that Congressmen Hansen Clarke and John Conyers will hold a public forum in Detroit today on allegations of harassment and racial profiling by Customs Enforcement agents.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett reported on some of the complaints last month, with some saying immigration officials in unmarked SUVs were monitoring people near a school.

From Hulett's report:

The Detroit office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is under fire for what critics are calling aggressive and overzealous tactics.

ICE officials say they are concerned enough that they're reviewing a recent incident involving immigration agents.

But the union that represents agents is complaining that ICE isn't standing behind its officers.

The Detroit Free Press reported on a small rally organized earlier this month (June 11) by the Alliance for Immigrants Rights & Reform Michigan.

From the Free Press:

About 40 people rallied in southwest Detroit on Saturday to protest what they say is a rise in racial profiling and harassment by agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The rally at Clark Park was organized by the Alliance for Immigrants Rights & Reform Michigan. Some participants flashed signs to drivers at the intersection of Vernor and Scotten that said: "Stop Racial Profiling," "Stop the Abuse" and other pleas.

The Clarke and Conyers meeting is scheduled for today at the Hope of Detroit Academy.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A republican congressman from West Michigan and a democrat from Detroit held a joint town hall meeting today Saturday in Grand Rapids. The two freshmen lawmakers have bonded in the nation’s capitol and want to show people some politicians do get along.

Congressman Justin Amash is a tea party favorite from West Michigan. Congressman Hansen Clarke is a democrat from Detroit.  

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody caught up with Michigan Congressman Hansen Clarke. Carmody asked Clarke about his reaction to the Giffords tragedy:

The annual North American International Auto Show in Detroit has often been a place for local members of Congress to meet and greet constituents.

But this weekend's assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman is raising questions about security.

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke says this weekend's assassination attempt on an Arizona congresswoman has affected his security plans:

"We are implementing some of the procedures recommended by the U. S. Capitol Police, but I feel confident that those will be adequate."

Clarke was sworn in for his first turn in Congress just days ago.

One of the first people he met was Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Clarke says the two talked about both being graduates of Cornell University.

He expressed sadness on the attempt on Giffords' life, but he says that danger is just a fact of life that all elected officials must face:

"I'm not going to change how I work.   I'm going to be as open and available to the public.  I think that's very important.  I represent the taxpayers. I'm paid by the taxpayers.  I'm hired by them to work for them.  They need to know that their government is open and available to them."

flickr - cliff1066

As a way of proving how fiscally conservative they are, some members of Congress are choosing to sleep in their offices on Capitol Hill.

Ashley Parker writes about the "Couch Caucus" in a New York Times piece today.

Michigan Democrat Hansen Clarke is featured in the article. He's a freshman Congressman from Michigan's 13th District (Detroit area).

Clarke is quoted in the article about why he's choosing to sleep in his office:

"Washington is not going to be a home for me — I’m only there to work. I need to be able to work up to 20 hours a day and still get some decent sleep, and if I sleep in my office I’ll be able to do that.

The Times reports the members choosing to sleep in their offices are spread across party lines, but mostly male members of Congress are choosing to do so. Parker writes about the critics of the practice:

They...complain that the practice can feel like a macho boys club, that it promotes a fierce anti-Washington sentiment that hurts bipartisanship and that, frankly, it just seems weird.

The offices are equipped with basic furniture, sinks, and bathrooms. But there are no sleeper sofas, and no showers. Members head to the gym in the office building to wash up.