Potts' Run for State House Follows Local Political Tradition
With the redistricting battle behind him, the Oakland County Commissioner says he’s ready for Lansing and plans to spend $100,000 of his own money in his campaign.
It’s a pattern Birmingham and Bloomfield voters have seen before.
With term limits looming for longtime state Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Birmingham), Oakland County Commissioner David Potts hopes to follow in footsteps of his predecessor into the Michigan House of Representatives in November, concluding his career in public service.
“This will be it for me,” the three-term incumbent said in his Birmingham law office last week. “I have thought about and planned on doing this for a while, and now is really the best time.”
Potts to spend $100,000 of his own
As Moss eyes the opportunity to make a name for himself in state Senate and with Oakland County commissioner districts shrinking, Potts acknowledged this could be his best and only chance to serve in Lansing. Potts formally announced his candidacy in a small gathering of supporters, family and friends at the county commission chambers last month.
Though well-established in local political and business circles, Potts said he wouldn’t be surprised if another candidate declared an interest in the seat for the August party primary and no doubt expects the seat to be contested by Democrats in the fall.
To prepare himself, Potts said he intends to announce this week that he’ll pour $100,000 of his own money into the campaign and will continue to raise funds from other sources as needed during the campaign. The purpose is twofold, the former Bloomfield Hills High School graduate said. First, it sends a strong signal — particularly to other Republicans interested in the primary — that they face not only significant name recognition in the district, but also a significant war chest when needed.
The move also negates any concerns about Potts' personal commitment to the job after a protracted legal fight against the Democrat-controlled plans to redraw commissioner districts. The Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled against a suit he and other opponents filed to prevent the elimination of four commissioner seats.
A natural progression
This isn’t the first time a local politician has moved from city to county to state-level politics. Potts follows the path forged by Birmingham’s own Moss six years ago.
Moss, an attorney and former writer and columnist for the Birmingham Eccentric, Oakland Press and Detroit News, began his career in politics on the Birmingham Traffic and Safety Board before he was elected to the Birmingham City Commission. In 2000, he was named mayor of the commission.
Later in 2000, Moss was elected to the Oakland County Commission, where he served as the chair of the Finance Committee. In 2006, he was elected to the state House, defeating Democrat Syed Jafry. Moss represents Michigan’s 40th District, which comprises Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township, Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Orchard Lake Village.
However, with the 2012 elections approaching, term limits will force Moss to give up his seat in the House (state representatives are elected for two-year terms and are limited to three terms). But Moss isn’t done with politics yet: In August 2011, Moss said he will run for state Sen. John Pappageorge’s (R-Troy) seat in the state Senate in 2014.
Speaking of slowly moving up the political ladder, Pappageorge — who also has to give up his Senate seat in 2014 due to term limits — is also familiar with a long political apprenticeship. Despite three unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Congress in the 1990s, Pappageorge also began with the Oakland County Commission and served in the Michigan House from 1999-2004.
'No real history of newbies’ in Birmingham, Bloomfield
Moving from city-level leadership to the county and then the state is, according to Moss, almost expected among voters in the Birmingham-Bloomfield area.
“This community places a big value on experience and knowing what you’re doing,” Moss said. “There’s no real history of newbies in this area.”
Before Moss, Michigan’s 40th District was represented by Shelley Taub (R-West Bloomfield), now an Oakland County commissioner. Before that, the seat was filled by Birmingham's Patricia Godchaux, who began her political career with the Birmingham Board of Education as well as the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.
Potts said he has no qualms about the possibility of following Moss to the House and continuing to represent much of the same constituency as he has at the county level. According to Potts, consistency is important, as is sharing the values of Bloomfield and Birmingham-area voters.
Moss noted that Potts’ local name recognition will help him gain traction among area voters this fall. And if elected, Moss said Potts’ experience with the Oakland County Commission under the leadership of County Executive L. Brooks Patterson will be invaluable.
“It doesn’t hurt to know how the real world works. The citizens are definitely served by having people who know what they’re doing,” Moss said, noting that working under Republican Gov. Rick Snyder is similar to working under Patterson.
The road ahead
Potts said that if successful, he’s looking forward to working with Snyder, whom he believes is trying to apply sound business principles to state government.
“It’s his means test for everything, and it’s an approach that seems to have gotten some things accomplished,” he said. If elected, Potts said he’d try to vie for positions on the Finance and Judiciary committees in order to fit his professional skill set. Potts served on the Finance, General Government and Planning and Building committees while serving the county.
In addition to finances, Potts said he’d like to focus on higher education to help curb Michigan’s "brain drain" of college graduates migrating to other states, and he'd like to work on combating crime. Both are essential elements to a full economic recovery, he said.
“I’m a conservative — a fiscal conservative — but don’t think I’m an ideologue,” he said. "But the real issues we’re facing, at least in the short term, are all job-related, and that’s where the focus needs to be.”
As for Moss, he has several goals should he be elected to the state Senate, including: continue to complete the budget by the beginning of June every year and get the state’s retirement and legacy costs under control.
“If we do that, we’ll be ready for the hall of fame,” he said.
Whatever happens, Moss and Potts still have plans to stick together. Potts will bring Moss along this fall as his campaign manager, while the pair will continue hosting and producing their local cable show, Eye on Oakland.