Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R)
Michigan 11th District
The inexorable pattern of growth and its consequences is a vivid tale in the western suburbs of Wayne County, 15 miles from downtown Detroit. Just west of northwest Detroit is Livonia. Sixty years ago, the 36 square miles of Livonia had 17,000 people. By 1960, there were 66,000, and by 2000, 100,000. Similar growth was taking place just to the south in Westland, named after a shopping center. To the west, around the old towns of Plymouth and Northville, affluent subdivisions sprang up. To the southwest, Canton Township grew 34% with more modest subdivisions. To the northwest, Novi, in Oakland County, is one of the metro area’s highest-income suburbs. Lyon Township has been another growth area. Livonia is aging now—its school-age population was 38,000 in the 1970s and 17,000 in 2002—with some vacant factories and closed malls. In June 2009, General Motors announced it would close an engine plant here and lay off 120 employees. But these suburbs all have been thriving in relation to troubled Detroit. Tying them together is Interstate 275, which runs along the western edge of Livonia and Westland and provides easy access to Metro Airport.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Livonia was originally the political base of longtime Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara (1986-2002), an old-style political boss who built the beautiful new midfield terminal at Metro, which is named after him. Livonia, originally settled by Detroiters, was long closely divided between the two major parties, but the recent affluent influx into western Wayne County has made those areas more Republican. Racial minorities have become a majority in Wayne County, due partly to the rapid growth of Hispanics and Asian-Americans, many of them doing high-tech work in what local officials trumpet as the Automation Alley, the long miles of open road between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
The 11th Congressional District of Michigan covers much of the territory in western Wayne and Oakland counties—Livonia and Redford Township just to the east, Westland and Canton Township, Northville and Plymouth, Novi and several fast-growing townships to the north and west. The lines were carefully drawn to produce a district that voted 51% for George W. Bush in 2000 and with the clear intention of electing a Republican representative. But like nearby districts, Republican allegiance here has been slipping. Barack Obama won the district 54%-45% in 2008.
Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Aug. 22, 1965, Detroit .
Education: U. of Detroit, B.A. 1987, J.D. 1990.
Family: Married (Rita); 2 children.
Elected office: Schoolcraft Community Col. Trustees Bd., 1989-92; Wayne Cnty. Commission, 1992-98; MI Senate, 1998-2002.
The congressman from the 11th District is Thaddeus McCotter, a Republican elected in 2002. He grew up in Livonia, where his mother was city clerk. He graduated from Detroit’s Catholic Central High School, where he was a first-team all-Catholic football player, and from the University of Detroit and its law school. He was elected to the Wayne County Commission in 1992, at age 27, and became the driving force to change the county’s charter to require a vote of two-thirds of the commission plus 60% of the voters in a referendum to pass a tax increase. In 1998, he was elected to the state Senate, where he became vice chairman of the Senate’s reapportionment committee. He helped design the new 11th District, which included his entire Senate district, and so made himself the early front-runner for the 2002 election. He received encouragement from House Republican leaders and won the primary, 69%-31%. But McCotter did not win the seat without a contest. In the general election, he faced Democrat Kevin Kelley, the Redford Township supervisor. Kelley called himself a “centrist Democrat,” and both candidates supported the Bush tax cuts and authorization of military force in Iraq, and both opposed creating individual investment accounts in Social Security. McCotter defined himself as a conservative who opposed abortion rights and gun control. Kelley supported abortion rights and restrictions on gun ownership. Kelley hoped to benefit from Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jennifer Granholm’s local popularity. McCotter raised more money, much of it at a mid-October fundraiser with Bush. His 57%-40% victory was larger than expected.
|Thaddeus McCotter (R)||177,461||(51%)||($1,058,502)|
|Joseph Larkin (D)||156,625||(45%)||($28,957)|
|Thaddeus McCotter (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (54%), 2004 (57%), 2002 (57%)
In the House, McCotter established a moderate-to-conservative voting record, with streaks of independence. He is an avid rock-and-roll fan, with a quirky sense of humor, prone to quoting song lyrics. He has a large poster of Beatles legend John Lennon hanging on the wall in his congressional office. He enjoys playing the guitar, and with four other House members he formed the Second Amendments, a bipartisan rock and country band, which has performed for U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In 2006, he voted “present” on a Republican leadership resolution supporting the war in Iraq and rejecting a timetable for withdrawal. He called the resolution “strategically nebulous, morally obtuse, and woefully inadequate.” In March 2007, he was one of 13 Republicans to vote for House passage of organized labor’s bill to expedite union organization.
McCotter was an early supporter of John Boehner of Ohio for Majority Leader in 2006 and was welcomed into his inner circle. That may have helped him defeat California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa in a November 2006 contest for chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, a rung on the leadership ladder. He has used his leadership position to advocate the idea that Republicans should be less centralized and do a better job of engaging rank-and-file members. He took some innovative steps, such as opening Policy Committee membership to any House Republican who wanted to participate and starting a blog on its website. He skipped the Republican national convention in Minneapolis-St. Paul in September 2008 so that he could continue to lead the Republican protest on the floor—while the House was not in session—of the Democrats’ inaction on energy policy.
In this competitive district, McCotter has been blessed by weak opposition. He has won re-election by unimpressive margins against underfinanced opponents. In 2006, he won 54%-43% against Tony Trupiano, an outspoken syndicated radio talk show host. While Democrats captured two adjacent districts in 2008, attorney Joseph Larkin ran a below-the-radar challenge to McCotter in 2008, and McCotter prevailed 51%-45%. A well-funded, top-tier Democratic opponent might give McCotter a tough race.