While the Democratic primary battle between Trevor Thomas and Steve Pestka in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District started off as an interesting race between two very different candidates, things have taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks. While Pestka's campaign has racked up the endorsements of seemingly every labor group and local and state leader, Thomas has reacted by employing a strategy that could only hope to accomplish damaging both of the Democratic candidates to the point that neither of them stands a chance at beating the tea-party extremist incumbent Justin Amash in November.
As was reported in the Grand Rapids Press this morning, Thomas released selected results from a poll he had conducted that claimed to read the bios of both candidates to potential voters before asking them who they'd support. Sounds fair, right? Ehhhhh, not exactly. According to one of the people that was included in the poll sample:
“It started off like an objective survey, but when it got to the part of asking if I thought favorably of Thomas, instead of simply asking the question, the guy read an incredibly long and detailed account of Thomas' glowing attributes. I started laughing. It was just silly. Note to Thomas campaign: tactics like this don't build trust or enthusiasm for your candidate.
But not only was Trevor's bio grossly exaggerated in what was read to those being polled, the bio of Steve Pestka put together by Thomas' camp was full of the same lies and distortions of Pestka and his record that have become the hallmark of Thomas' campaign. Claims that Pestka voted to defund Planned Parenthood, would vote to ban abortions even in the case of incest and rape and even fabricating quotes from Pestka himself to try to back up those lies.
So, while Thomas cites the poll as evidence that he's the better candidate, when you tell those being polled that you like rainbows and kittens while your opponent hates women and everything they stand for, you're not only making the poll you're trying to brag about laughably inaccurate, you're showing you're willing to do and say anything in a desperate attempt to show you're relevant in the race.
Fortunately, it seems the Democrats have had enough. They know they need a strong candidate to take on Justin Amash in November so some of the state's most prominent leaders in the Democratic party have thrown down the gauntlet, calling on Trevor Thomas to end his "win at all costs" campaign strategy and to stop lying about Steve Pestka.
Take the state's top female Democrat, Gretchen Whitmer, for example:
"I was joined by thousands of women at the State Capitol this week to rally against continuing Republican attacks on women. I know Steve Pestka will be a constant advocate for women’s health in Washington. West Michigan deserves better than Thomas’ political games and that's why our families, our neighbors and leaders from across Michigan are all supporting Steve Pestka."
Or Representative Kate Segal:
"Misleading people in order to try to score points is not a Calhoun County value. Steve Pestka has focused his entire campaign on doing what's right for West Michigan families. The truth is that while in the legislature, Steve voted to increase funding for Planned Parenthood and to expand coverage for birth control mammograms and other women's health issues."
Apparently Jocelyn Benson also released a statement condemning Thomas' campaign, though I couldn't find the exact quote online. Considering, however, these women are some of the strongest and most outspoken leaders Michigan has, particularly Gretchen Whitmer who helped organize a 3,000+ person rally at the capitol this week to fight for women's equality
, it serves to demonstrate the absurdity of Thomas' anti-women claims about Pestka when nearly every female leader in the Democratic party has endorsed him.
Beyond the lies being strewn about by Thomas' campaign, the bigger question is what is he even trying to accomplish at this point? His behavior suggests he no longer cares about whether we can rid Congress of Justin Amash, but rather that he's going to act like a schoolyard child that didn't get his way and so is going to take his ball and go home. Except he's also going to light the schoolyard on fire on his way out.
Frankly, it seems Trevor is taking cues from the Roy Schmidt playbook of West Michigan politics that says if you can't win fairly, try to cheat the system. Much like Roy Schmidt found out, however, I think Mr. Thomas is going to find out that the people of West Michigan don't react well to those games.
For Democrats to defeat Justin Amash, there has to be a strong candidate that isn't bruised from an expensive and ugly primary. While that candidate initially could have been either Steve Pestka or Trevor Thomas, that can obviously no longer be the case. Not only is Pestka the choice of real leaders in West Michigan, but he's the one talking about real ideas and plans to get our economy back on track while Thomas continues to play the same tired political games.
This race is supposed to be about finding the Democrat that can defeat Justin Amash. It's time for Trevor Thomas to read that memo.