Michigan: Rooney Vs. Walberg Won’t Lack Fireworks

Posted November 9, 2009 at 6:29pm

A compelling three-way Republican primary is taking shape in the 7th district, where the rhetoric is already starting to heat up between attorney Brian Rooney, who made his candidacy official on Thursday, and former Rep. Tim Walberg, who lost the seat in 2008. Rancher and real estate investor Marvin Carlson is also in the race, and Bill Martin, CEO of the Michigan Association of Realtors, has expressed interest, though sources on the ground say he is leaning against a run. The winner of the GOP primary will face Rep. Mark Schauer (D) next November.

Even before Rooney officially announced, the Walberg camp was quick to dismiss him as a carpetbagger for only recently moving into the district. Rooney, the brother of Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.), acknowledges that he has been living in Wayne County, to the east of the district border, and has lived in Michigan for just over three years. He pointed to his service as a U.S. Marine, which has forced him to move “all around the country and world.—

“When I finally settled my family in one place, it was Michigan,— Rooney said, adding that he had no intention of running for office at the time and didn’t make his decision based on where district lines were drawn. “I wouldn’t expect a politician to understand that,— he said, previewing a line of attack the campaign is likely to use against Walberg, whom they will seek to paint as a career politician.

Professional and personal background are likely to play a large role in the GOP primary since there is not much ideological daylight between the three candidates, who all voice strong fiscally and socially conservative views.

Rooney said he brings a “different leadership style— and a “different life story— than Walberg and is trying to couch himself as a fresh face. Walberg has no intention of running away from his political record, touting his mix of experience in both elected office and the private sector.

Both Rooney and Walberg are on the same page, however, when it comes to their criticism of Schauer, whom they both accuse of toeing the Democratic party line despite campaigning as a centrist in 2008. Both campaigns have also gone after Schauer for claiming in an Oct. 29 interview with a local news outlet that he was “very involved in rewriting this health care bill.—

Claiming “ownership of the health care bill … will not bode well for him,— Rooney predicted.