David Jaye was the first senator in Michigan's 162 year history to be expelled from office. Undaunted, the maverick ultra-conservative Republican now seeks to rewrite the history books again by becoming the first ousted lawmaker to recapture his old seat.
This unusual political comeback tale is being played out in one of Michigan's most volatile and nationally-known hot beds of political activity -- Macomb County, a suburb just north of Detroit. Birthplace of the Reagan Democrats, quirky Macomb is poised to send back to Lansing a legislator who was soundly drummed out of office for offenses he says he never committed. His fellow senators didn't believe him.
Jaye was accused, but never charged nor convicted, of beating his fiancee on two separate occasions. In one of the cases, Sonia Kloss first told police that Jaye hit her. Than she recanted. But by then the state Senate was up in arms. On top of the domestic violence allegations, Jaye had several previous drunk driving convictions. At one point, he'd served his constituents from a county jail cell. His colleagues branded Jaye an embarrassment to the institution and one senator concluded he couldn't face his own wife and daughter as long as Jaye was around.Jaye has always been a thorn in the side of lawmakers whom he accuses of going along to get along. When they wanted to spend on pork barrel projects, he would single them out by name and blast their alleged frivolous spending habits. If Governor John Engler ordered Jaye to jump, he stood still. By his own admission he was not the most popular guy around, but he parlayed that into one election win after another as the voters back home loved him.
Removed from office this spring, Jaye is now pursuing his old seat claiming he was unfairly booted out, and he's giving the voters a chance to send Lansing a message and send him back.
To counteract the negative publicity over the abuse charges, Jaye has formed a Women for Jaye committee. Those female supporters say they don't believe he is a woman hater or beater. He'll need to convince other women that they are right.
The primary for the senate seat is September 11 with the run-off slated for November. Jaye's chances for winning increased when the field was finalized. When the dust settled, 13 Republican hopefuls were in the hunt. Some theorize that the anti-Jaye vote will be divided among the other 12 while Jaye holds onto his base support and rides merrily back into office with less than 30% of the vote. He's won like that before but denies that he had anything to do with quietly recruiting the raft of candidates in the field.
The state's organized political establishment from the Chamber of Commerce to multi-client lobbyists has marshaled its money and manpower behind Rep. Alan Sanborn (R-Macomb County). The more they pile on, the more Jaye plays the martyr seeking the sympathy vote. Jaye has beaten Sanborn before and as the mud flies, he's confident he can do it again.
The anti-Jaye theme is fairly simple: reelect this guy and nobody in the senate will give him the time of day, let alone any legislation that might benefit Macomb County. Jaye counters that he is an independent voice in tune with independent minded voters in the mercurial county. Jaye's supporters chime in with attacks on Sanborn, saying he lied about bringing home $5 million for new roads while voting to spend $3 million on an airport in Kalamazoo about 200 miles from Macomb county.
There's already been one casualty in the fray. Senate Republican Leader Dan DeGrow, who almost single handily jump-started the expulsion proceedings against Jaye, has been deserted by his own party in a bid to become Michigan's next attorney general.
Lt. Governor Dick Posthumus, the odds-on favorite to win the GOP nomination for governor next year, told DeGrow this week that he was yanking his previous support for DeGrow's A.G. bid. Posthumus needs the conservative base in Macomb county to have any chance of replacing his pal and incumbent Gov. Engler.
Since DeGrow had alienated voters there, Posthumus broke with him, citing the David Jaye flap as part of the reason.
David Jaye couldn't be happier.