Rep. Candice Miller (R)
Michigan 10th District
Macomb County, on the billiard-table-flat shore of Lake St. Clair just northeast of Detroit, has been one of the nation’s most closely watched political battlegrounds, a place where it once seemed the electoral fate of Michigan and even the entire country might be determined. It owes much of that to its reputation as blue-collar suburbia, but that is no longer quite accurate: More people hold white-collar jobs than blue-collar jobs these days, and there is far less work in auto plants than in earlier generations. There are plenty of affluent subdivisions now, and boat ownership is close to the highest in the country. Macomb County is the product of the post-World War II boom. In 1940, it had 107,000 residents, many in the old sulphur-water spa town of Mount Clemens. Macomb passed the 400,000 mark in 1960 and the 600,000 mark in 1970. In 2007, it had 831,000 people, as farms continued to convert to subdivisions. Many people came here from the east side of Detroit. These new suburbanites were heavily Catholic, often blue collar, at least modestly affluent, and ancestrally Democratic. They accepted the New Deal as part of their natural heritage, but resented the efforts of Detroit politicians to tax them to pay for welfare programs, and they were fearful of the crime rates in Detroit’s black neighborhoods.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
In 1960, Macomb County was the most Democratic major suburban county in the United States, voting 63% for America’s first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. Over the next three decades, Macomb moved away from national Democrats—in 1962 because they would let Detroit tax suburbanites, in 1972 because they didn’t vehemently oppose a metropolitan school busing plan. From 1976 to 1992, no Democratic presidential candidate got more than 40% of the vote here. In 1996, after great effort and with the advice of pollster Stan Greenberg, who has studied Macomb closely, Bill Clinton carried Macomb County 49%-39%. In 2000, Al Gore carried it 50%-48%, nearly the national average. But the Democratic tide receded a little. Central and northern Macomb County have been filling up with expensive subdivisions that have been growing rapidly—some by more than 40% in the 1990s—and that are not as culturally liberal as affluent parts of Oakland County. In 2004, President Bush carried Macomb 50%-49%. But as Republicans have suffered nationwide, so have they suffered in Macomb. In her successful re-election in 2006, Gov. Jennifer Granholm defeated Republican Dick DeVos in Macomb, 52%-46%. In 2008, Barack Obama defeated John McCain handily in Macomb, 53%-45%.
The 10th Congressional District of Michigan includes the northern two-thirds of Macomb County, with nearly half of its voters. It also includes Lapeer County, where once-rapid exurban growth has slowed. Also in the district are St. Clair County, with Port Huron and its Blue Water Bridge to Canada, and two rural counties in Michigan’s “Thumb.” Northern Macomb has become increasingly Republican, Lapeer and St. Clair have long been fairly Republican, and the Thumb has long been very Republican. Overall this district has voted Republican in recent presidential elections—57% for Bush in 2004, and 50% for John McCain in 2008.
Rep. Candice Miller (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: May 7, 1954, Detroit .
Home: Harrison Twnshp..
Education: Macomb Cnty. Community Col., 1973-74, Northwood U..
Family: Married (Donald); 1 child.
Elected office: Trustee, Harrison Twnshp. Bd., 1979-80; Harrison Twnshp. supervisor, 1980-92; Macomb Cnty. treasurer, 1992-94; MI secy. of state, 1994-2002.
Professional Career: Secy.-Treas., D.B. Snider Inc. marina, 1972-79
The congresswoman from the 10th District is Candice Miller, a Republican elected in 2002. Miller grew up in Macomb County. In 1979, at age 25, she was elected Harrison Township trustee. A year later, she was elected as the youngest and first woman supervisor of the township. In 1986, she ran against Democratic Rep. David Bonior and lost 66%-34%. In 1992, she won an upset bid to become Macomb County treasurer. And two years later, she defeated 24-year incumbent Richard Austin to become the Michigan secretary of state. In 1998, she carried all of Michigan’s counties and set a state record for total votes. Armed with huge name recognition as secretary of state but prevented from running for re-election by term limits, Miller was the favorite to succeed Bonior, who ran for governor in 2002. Democrats were enthusiastic about Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga, who had been in office for 20 years. But Marlinga could not keep pace with Miller’s fundraising. He also called himself a “Hubert Humphrey Democrat”—not a big advantage in this district—while Miller called herself a “George W. Bush Republican” at a time such a claim still inspired voters. She opposed abortion rights, supported free-trade agreements, and favored making the Bush tax cuts permanent—all positions opposite Marlinga’s. Both candidates supported gun-ownership rights. Citing her daughter’s membership in the United Auto Workers, Miller reached out to unions and was endorsed by the Teamsters, but not the AFL-CIO. Miller won handily, 63%-36%, carrying Macomb County 61%-37%. She has been re-elected easily ever since.
|Candice Miller (R)||230,471||(66%)||($756,978)|
|Robert Denison (D)||108,354||(31%)||($7,440)|
|Candice Miller (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (66%), 2004 (69%), 2002 (63%)
In the House, Miller has had a moderate-to-conservative voting record; she tends to be more conservative on cultural issues. By 2007, her support for the Iraq war had softened, and she opposed the president’s strategy for a “surge” of troop strength. But she opposed Democratic restrictions on war funding because of concerns it would demoralize U.S. troops. On the Armed Services Committee, she worked to protect the Selfridge Air National Guard Base, and sought additional Pentagon contracts for local firms, including the General Dynamics plant in Sterling Heights that manufactures the Army Stryker armored vehicle.
Miller takes seriously her district’s proximity to the natural assets of the Great Lakes, and warned a congressional panel, “Do not look to the Great Lakes to solve the nation’s water problems.” She was “very disappointed” with Bush’s veto in 2007 of the Water Resources Development Act, which included $20 million for the St. Clair River. Also in 2007, she condemned as “downright nuts” a proposed permit by Indiana that would allow British Petroleum to dump more pollutants in Lake Michigan with its expanded refinery. Mindful of the state’s dependence on auto manufacturing, she also criticized advocates of tougher fuel-efficiency standards for seeking “to bankrupt Detroit.” In April 2009, repeating assurances from Chrysler and the Obama administration, Miller declared in a floor speech that Chrysler’s imminent bankruptcy would not result in plant closures in her district. The next day, it was revealed that Chrysler planned to close five plants, including one employing 1,400 in Sterling Heights in the district. Miller criticized the plan as “very troubling,” citing Chrysler’s decision to keep open a plant in Mexico with similar production abilities as the Sterling Heights facility.
Miller has sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to exclude illegal aliens from the decennial congressional reapportionment process, calling it “absolutely outrageous” that noncitizens had “a profound impact on our political system.”
The Ethics Committee admonished Miller after it reviewed the case of Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas and his efforts to influence the vote of Republican Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan during the close vote on the 2003 bill to create a prescription drug bill in Medicare. The committee concluded that Miller tried to intimidate Smith to vote for the bill. Miller told the Detroit Free Press: “If a black belt can be intimidated by an overweight, middle-age woman, that’s too bad.”
In 2008, Miller chaired recruitment for the National Republican Congressional Committee, but her efforts were unproductive in an election year that turned against Republicans.