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Dancing to Lansing

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Just when we’ve had it up to our gills with politics as usual — that is, incumbents with overflowing campaign coffers inevitably kicking electoral ass — word comes that a dark-horse candidate has won for all the right reasons. Of course, thanks to the reliably inefficient people who run Detroit elections, that word didn’t come with finality until last Friday. Nonetheless, we were pleased to see that political newcomer Steve Tobacman eked out a 187-vote victory over incumbent Bela Garza in the Democratic primary for the State House’s 12th District, which covers much of southwest Detroit. Because the district is about 98 percent Dem, Tobacman is virtually assured of a ticket to Lansing come December. Tobacman, a lawyer who specializes in representing nonprofit urban development groups and other do-gooders, relied on those connections to generate an honest-to-gawd grassroots campaign. Running on a shoestring budget, the candidate estimates he knocked on some 7,000 doors, frequently venturing into some of the district’s rougher-looking neighborhoods, where constituents reportedly said they hadn’t been visited by an actual politician for 30 years or so.

So, what can we expect from Rep. Tobacman?

For one thing, a push to expand statewide the type of small-scale, sustainable economic development that has helped turn parts of southwest Detroit around in recent years.

But he has no illusions that he’ll be able to turn Michigan into a progressive hotbed. Given the tilt toward the far right during the ’90s, he says, “just moving things toward the middle of the road at this point will be a big improvement.”

Curt Guyette is the Metro Times news editor. E-mail cguyette@metrotimes.com

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