Congressman Tim Walberg (R. — Mich.) keeps a bottle of air freshener in his Washington, D.C., office. It sits on the table to the left of his desk.
Sitting on a chair in front of that table in mid-August, Walberg stood up, walked to the table, and returned with the blue and white bottle of air-deodorizer. The bottle’s label reads “Good Sense.”
The bottle is from Hillsdale Academy, where Walberg said he – with permission – swiped the bottle in 2008 before speaking at the school’s commencement ceremony.
“Good Sense,” he said. “It wasn’t long before I thought ‘Hey, is that why Hillsdale College is the way it is? Because they spray good sense all over the place?’”
“I’m trying to spray good sense around the capital here.”
Walberg is the congressman from Michigan’s 7th district, which makes him the congressman of Hillsdale College. He is currently running for re-election to his third term in the U.S. House against Democrat lawyer Kurt Haskell.
Born and raised in south-central Chicago, Walberg, 61, served as a pastor for 10 years in two churches before entering politics. In southern Michigan at his second church, he became heavily involved with his county’s anti-abortion movement. Abortion is a “non-negotiable” issue for Walberg.
Encouraged to run against the local incumbent state congressman, Walberg beat him and in 1984 entered the Michigan House of Representatives, where he would serve for the next 16 years. He was term-limited from running in 1999.
“Thankfully,” he said in 2012.
Here began a private sector stint for Walberg. For several years, he worked at an education think-tank before joining the Moody Bible Institute. He worked there as a division manager for five-and-a-half years.
Walberg’s first try for the House came in 2003, but he, with five other Republicans, lost in the primary to moderate Joe Schwarz. Walberg ran again in 2005, beat Schwarz in the primary, and went on to win the seat with 49.93 percent of the vote.
In his first year in office, Walberg authored legislation that would make the 2001 tax cuts, commonly referred to as “the Bush tax cuts,” permanent. The bill was defeated down party lines.
A champion of limited government, Walberg’s voting record holds an 83 percent conservative rating by Heritage Action, eight points higher than Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R. — Wis.) score. The average House Republican has a 66 percent rating.
Democrat Mark Schauer defeated Walberg in 2008, a year in which the Republicans lost 21 seats after losing control of the House in 2006. Walberg said he was “thrown out for hope and change.”
Over $4 million of spending for the race was reported to the Federal Election Commission. Walberg said the total spent on the race was closer to $10 million due to outside spending, making the 2008 7th District race one of the most expensive House races in the country.
“I lost by two points, but it was still two points and that was enough to lose by,” Walberg said.
He decided to run again in 2010, challenging Schauer for his old seat.
This time around, Walberg said about $15 million was spent on the race. Michigan’s 7th District was again one of the most expensive races in the country.
Walberg won his seat back with 50 percent of the vote to Schauer’s 45 percent.
“[The voters] found out that my opponent voted the same way that Obama and Speaker Pelosi would have voted,” Walberg said, “and they decided they didn’t like that.”
The state legislature redrew the 7th district borders in 2011, making it slightly more favorable to the GOP.
The issues of the 2012 election, Walberg said, are unemployment and the economy and then the repeal of Obamacare. Besides ensuring a “level playing field” for businesses, Walberg said the best government can do to foster economic growth is promote the Constitution and “get out of the way.”
“If I can promote the Constitution,” he said, “moving back as much as we can and limiting what the federal government mandates from the states and the local communities, I think I will have promoted economic growth, not only for the 7th district but for the state of Michigan.”
Walberg recently introduced a bill similar to the one he introduced in his first term, cutting taxes and making the Bush tax cuts permanent. The bill currently sits in committee.
Compared to the last few, the 2012 race has been pedestrian. The campaign of Kurt Haskell, the Democratic challenger, has spent just more than $50,000 according to the FEC, compared to Walberg’s $780,000.
Walberg said it is strange to not be “embroiled in a bare-knuckle, brass knuckle fight” for the 7th district seat.
“But we’re not going to take it for granted,” he said.