MLive: Ken Braun: Republicans won’t blow the chance to hold the Rogers congressional seat

When a big Powerball jackpot drawing is just hours away, last-minute dreamers crowd around convenience-store countertops, claiming tickets and fantasizing about how to spend the fortune.

A similar mad scramble is taking place after U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Brighton, made a surprise announcement last week that he will not seek re-election. With less than a month before the filing deadline, a gaggle of politicians who had no plans to run for Congress are now thinking, “Somebody has to win, so why not me?”

Democrats are the biggest dreamers: The 8th district reportedly has just a 46.2 percent Democratic base.  All things being equal, this yields nearly an 8-point advantage for the Republican, and this year is an off-year election, with a lame-duck Democratic president dealing with approval ratings in the low 40s.

So replacing Rogers with a Democrat will likely require pairing a particularly strong Democrat against a uniquely reckless Republican.

Crazy candidates can come of crazy opportunity: Witness Missouri Republican Todd Akin blowing apart strong GOP hopes to pick up a U.S. Senate seat in 2012 by infamously implying rape was unlikely to cause pregnancy. But the list of Republicans lining up at the last minute for the Rogers seat all appear to be people who more or less paid close attention during high school sex ed class.

Former Michigan Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, deserves more credit from conservatives than he often receives. One of his first moves after taking over the top post in the Michigan Senate in 2007 was to publicly declare his support for making Michigan into a Right to Work state. When Right to Work became reality in 2012, there was still barely enough support in the Republican-dominated Michigan Senate, despite a supermajority Mr. Bishop helped put there during his last term in charge.

Getting out in front of Right to Work in 2007 wasn’t putting a finger in the political wind. It was an effort to drag his fellow Republicans where they were not yet ready to go, and when he didn’t yet have votes to get there. Political “leadership” is often just following the will of other politicians who put you in power, but Bishop demonstrated the real thing.

State Sen. Joe Hune, R-Hamburg, was 22 when he decided to enter a race for a seat in the Michigan House of Representatives in 2002. He demonstrated skills well beyond his years and beyond most other people seeking similar jobs by winning – and then winning every election since. Last year, he was one of just three Michigan state lawmakers to obtain a perfect score from the American Conservative Union. If he wants to be a congressman, then it’s foolhardy to bet against him.

The most interesting potential congressman is state Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills. He arrived at the Michigan Capitol as one of the state’s best-known social and fiscal conservatives. Yet a more libertarian-leaning evolution has occurred since, with McMillin taking a peek into such issues as decriminalizing marijuana possession and creating more oversight of SWAT raids.

Finally, Saul Anuzis managed the Michigan Republican Party during most of the difficult years of the Granholm governorship. Like Bishop, he receives insufficient credit for advancing conservative causes against enemy fire. Anuzis was recently Michigan’s GOP national committeeman, but was deemed insufficiently pure by delegates who cast him aside and installed Dave Agema in his place.

So it’s quite possible for Michigan Republicans to find a highly flawed nominee and then lose the Rogers seat. They just don’t seem to be doing it.

Ken Braun was a legislative aide for a Republican lawmaker in the Michigan House and worked for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He has assisted in a start-up effort to encourage employers to provide economic education to employees, and is currently the director of policy for His employer is not responsible for what he says here, on Facebook, or Twitter … or in Spartan Stadium on game days.  This article originally appeared on