With the Constitution in the pocket of his suit jacket and a finger pointed toward the sky, Michigan State Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, said: “I know who I serve. I know why I’m serving.”
Colbeck, who represents the 7th District in Wayne County, is running to replace Michigan’s Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who is term limited. On Wednesday night in Lane 335, he gave a short speech, then fielded questions from the audience for more than an hour, noting that none of the other Republican candidates talked to their prospective constituents with such candor.
“You need someone who is willing to speak truth to power,” he said, “and the other candidates just won’t do it.”
In the Republican primary, he’s up against Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who have widespread name recognition and much fatter campaign coffers. According to the Detroit Free Press, Colbeck has raised a meager $243,00 compared to Schuette’s $3 million and Calley’s $1.8 million.
But that’s where he said he’s most comfortable.
He’s an outsider candidate, a longshot, but that’s the history of his seven years in the Michigan Senate, he said.
“I ran because I’m tired of cronyism — at all different levels,” he said.
Colbeck earned his Senate seat in a longshot bid, too. Never having held public office, he faced four state house representatives and beat them all.
Since he began the campaign, he has built a grassroots movement with little funding and hardly any name recognition outside of his district. He said it stands opposed to what he calls the “Lansing oligarchy” — the trio of Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt Township; Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Ottawa County; and Snyder.
In two polls on Real Clear Politics, he registered at 3 percent and 4 percent, while the Republican primary favorite, Schuette, hovered between 30 and 50 percent.
He said, luckily for him, at least 50 percent of voters remain undecided with four months before Michigan’s Aug. 7 primary. In the general election, the Republican victor would likely face former Senate Democratic Leader Gretchen Whitmore or Abdul El-Sayed, the former executive director of the Detroit Health Department.
Colbeck said his campaign slogan — “principled solutions for Michigan” — informs his campaign and every vote he takes as a Senator.
The first principle is “The government works for the people, not the other way around,” he said.
He said Lansing doesn’t follow this principle for basic services, like road maintenance.
“The whole issue with our roads is that they’re treating it as a jobs program instead of a public service program,” Colbeck said. “The Michigan Department of Transportation is not focused on quality.”
As evidence, he cited a MDOT study that looked at different road maintenance techniques and the number of union jobs that would result from each.
Colbeck earned his Senate seat during the Tea Party movement, which has cost him political capital in the Senate Republican Caucus.
He said he was the only Republican Senator not to receive a committee chairmanship during his second term.
Colbeck said Meekhof told him he couldn’t give him a leadership position because he was “too vocal” against Obamacare and Common Core.
“I told him: ‘You know I’m on the Republican side of these issues, right?’” Colbeck said.
He was the leading Republican voice against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and specifically Medicaid expansion, which earned him ire from the governor.
“I have read all of Obamacare,” he said. “It’s about control. It’s not about care.”
He spoke to a crowd of local residents, who grilled him with questions about guns, health care, roads, public safety services, the Article V Convention of States, and roads again.
“I resonate with nearly everything he said,” North Adams resident Mark D. Nichols said. “I fully agree with everything he said about religion and the Constitution, but what he said about roads really resonated with me. If we had politicians like him, we wouldn’t have these problems.”
Colbeck proudly proclaimed that the United States is a constitutional republic, not a democracy, which caught the attention of Jon-Paul Rutan, a Hillsdale resident who hosts the “Reclaim Our American Republic” podcast.
“In Michigan he is going to stay, out of all the candidates, the closest to the principles of the Constitution,” Rutan said. “Principles only work when they’re practiced, not when they’re just preached.”
Colbeck also captured the support of Hillsdale resident Penny Swan.
“I definitely think he’s the best candidate,” she said. “He speaks the truth. He’s proven that he does what he says he’s going to do.”
Nichols agreed: “He’s one in a million in Lansing. I’m sure.”