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MI-12: Shocker: Sandy Levin facing a serious primary challenge

By Charles Gaba - Posted on 22 March 2009

Anyone from Michigan knows that the Levin name is pretty much gold in the Michigan Democratic Party. Carl Levin has been kicking ass as one of our U.S. Senators for 30 years, and his older brother, Sander "Sandy" Levin has been a U.S. Representative for as long as I can remember. In addition, various other related Levins have been members of the state Supreme Court, federal judges, and so forth. Sandy's son, Andy Levin, ran for State Senate in 2006 and lost by a hair.

Why am I mentioning this? Because a headline broke today that is sure to cause a whole lot of raised eyebrows throughout the MDP:

Switalski looks to challenge Levin for House seat

State Sen. Mickey Switalski, a Roseville Democrat in his final term in the Legislature, said Saturday he plans to seek a new office in 2010 — the congressional seat straddling southern Macomb and Oakland counties that has been held for the last 27 years by fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Sander Levin.

Now, I admit that I know virtually nothing about Switalski beyond what the article says, but apparently he's a serious candidate with some serious political and fundraising skills.

Here's what the article has to say about Switalski:

Switalski, 54, has “a huge name in Macomb County” and is a proven vote-getter, having been elected four times to the Legislature, said Bill Ballenger, editor of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics.

But the most obvious motivation for Switalski is the fact that he’s term-limited and cannot run again for the Senate, Ballenger said.

Here's the thing, though--Sandy Levin doesn't, to the best of my knowledge, have any particular weaknesses. It's a solidly Democratic district (he won in 2006 with 70% of the vote, and for all I know he didn't even face a GOP challenger last fall). He hasn't, to the best of my knowledge, been caught in or even suspected of any scandals, either personal, financial, or political. His wife, Vicki, tragically passed away in September of last year. He's an incredibly nice and low-key guy (I worked on his son's State Senate campaign in '06).

Now, I personally think that Sandy Levin is awesome. I've met him several times; while stuffing envelopes for his son's race in 2006, Sandy took Taco Bell orders from the volunteers and personally went out to pick up the food. That's right, an incumbent U.S. Congressman once voluntarily went out and picked up fast food for me! Like I said, very low-key, very personable. His son's a great guy as well (shame that he lost the race). I even met his wife Vicki once back during the 2004 Presidential primary, and remember her as being very nice as well; I was saddened to hear of her passing. So obviously I'm a bit biased here.

Still, for Switalski to take on one of the lions of the Dems "old guard" in the U.S. house when Levin doesn't have any particular weaknesses beyond perhaps being elderly is a hell of an eye-opener.

Now, Switalski is term-limited as a State Senator due to Michigan's idiotic term limit rules, so I understand that he needs another job. I haven't kept track of Levin's voting record (I live in the 9th district, where we just kicked out Republican Joe Knollenberg in favor of Gary Peters, yay!!), so I don't know if there is any cause for concern there (though I doubt it). So, unless Switalski knows something that the rest of us don't, this strikes me as an incredibly strange move on his part.

So, what's his motivation?

He nevertheless could be a formidable challenger if he can articulate a reason for voters to replace Sander Levin, he [Ballenger] said.

In making his announcement Saturday, Switalski said “We can’t continue with the status quo. We need to make changes. I have the energy and fresh ideas to accomplish this.”

Hmmm...ok, obviously he had more to say than that at his announcement, but that's a pretty vague, thin argument for giving Sandy the boot. As a certain website would say, "developing..."