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« GOP Hits Dems On Guns | Blog Home Page | This Week On PN Radio »

Walberg Opponent Running Strong

A peculiar obstacle for Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg's reelection hopes is that he will likely face a Democratic opponent who can claim similar, if not more incumbent-like, advantages in fundraising, name recognition, and political experience within the district.

A top target of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Republican Walberg will face one of two experienced Democrats competing in the primary held August 3. Although Democrat Sharon Renier has reasonably high name recognition from running in the last two races, having barely lost to Walberg in 2006 despite being outspent $1.2 million to $56,000, State Senator and Democratic Minority Leader Mark Schauer is expected to win the primary and is a favorite of national Democrats.

With leadership experience, the support of party leaders, and a state senate district that covers about 40% of the Seventh Congressional District, which takes in Battle Creek and the western suburbs of Ann Arbor, along the Indiana border, Schauer has high name recognition and will make for a formidable opponent in November. Too, in the last three fundraising quarters, Schauer has not only dwarfed Renier in fundraising, but he has beaten out Walberg as well.

As our last post in March indicated, a Quinnipiac poll showed Walberg with a 51%-40% lead over Schauer. Yet Walberg's approval numbers in the district are relatively low and the district's overwhelmingly negative views of the direction of the country pose large hurdles for any incumbent. Republicans are worried as well, listing Walberg in their 'Secondary Defense' category.

What remains interesting is how Schauer has chosen to run as the "experience" candidate against a sitting incumbent. The Democrat is touting his influence in the recent decisions of two companies in the district, Brembo North America and Production Engineering, to stay put and expand their manufacturing operations. Schauer's Communications Director, Zack Pohl, says that both companies claim Schauer was instrumental in passing legislation influencing their decisions.

"He has a long history of creating economic development projects, working across the aisle and getting things done with businesses," Pohl said. "Walberg doesn't have the same kind of record of job creation and working with companies to get real results."

Walberg's campaign manager Justin Roebuck says that Walberg is working hard to be as visible and accessible in the district as possible, having held over 150 town hall-type meetings which the campaign trumpets as "listening sessions." But with Schauer expecting high Democratic turnout in this Presidential election, especially in Eaton and Washtenaw Counties with their high number of state employees, the Seventh District's incumbent will most likely be facing a tough challenge against a well-financed, well-known, and experienced challenger in November.

-- Greg Bobrinskoy