While voter anger over a regressive tax shift, emergency manager legislation and major cuts in education spending inspired recall petition drives against Gov. Rick Snyder and 23 Republican legislators, only one legislator will face a recall on the Nov. 8 ballot, state Rep. Paul Scott (R-Grand Blanc).
The Snyder recall failed to gather enough signatures within the required 90-day period and recall attempts against other Republican legislators have so far fallen short, but enough signatures were gathered to put the question of recalling Scott before 51st District voters. The Scott recall effort, supported by the Michigan Education Association, claims he deserves to be recalled over his votes in favor of cutting school spending and taxing pensions. A second term legislator, Scott chairs the House Education Committee.
Even so, the Scott recall was nearly thrown off the ballot in a chaotic series of events. Scott went to court, claiming the recall language was unclear and untruthful. With ballots already printed and mailed to absentee voters, a Michigan Court of Appeals panel, in a 2-1 vote, accepted Scott’s arguments and ruled that the recall should be kept off the ballot. Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Clinton Canady III then issued a preliminary injunction to remove the Scott recall from the ballot. On appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court, in an apparently unanimous decision last week, dissolved the injunction and ordered that the recall be restored to the ballot because it is not clear that Scott is likely to prevail on the merits of his argument. The previous rulings were highly unusual, for Michigan courts have rarely intervened this close to an election date.
Now that the Scott recall will stay on the ballot, its chances of success appear questionable. The 51st District, which consists of the southern Flint suburbs of Grand Blanc, Fenton, Linden, and Grand Blanc, Atlas, Mundy, Fenton and Argentine townships, is marginally Republican. Since being drawn in its current configuration in 2002, it has elected only Republican state representatives, David Robertson, now a state senator, in 2002, 2004 and 2006, and Scott in 2008 and 2010. But most of the races have been close. Robertson just barely won with 51 percent in 2002 and 2006, while getting 55 percent in 2004. Scott received 53 percent in 2008 and nearly 60 percent in the more Republican year of 2010. Whether there is sufficient anger in the district to put the Scott recall over the top remains to be seen.
The only successful recalls of Michigan legislators occurred in 1983, when Democratic state Sens. Philip Mastin and David Serotkin were recalled for voting in favor of a temporary state income tax increase. The special elections to replace them in 1984 were won by Republicans, giving the Republicans a majority in the state Senate, which they have maintained ever since.