In the race to represent Michigan’s 7th Congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republican incumbent Tim Walberg is experiencing stiff competition from his Democratic opponent Mark Schauer. Starting with his victory in the 2006 Republican primary against a highly regarded incumbent and continuing with his offensive comments about state issues, Walberg has only strengthened the case against his own re-election. Luckily, Schauer provides voters with a strong alternative.

Backed by shameless pro-life and anti-tax political action committees that ran a vicious campaign from the shadows, Walberg beat his more experienced, moderate primary opponent Rep. Joe Schwarz in 2006. Considering that prominent Republicans like Sen. John McCain endorsed Schwarz, Walberg’s upset was indicative of what the Republican Party has quietly become in recent years: far, far right, and preoccupied with social conservatism.

Though it’s hard to distinguish whether the bitter aftertaste of his campaign is to blame, Walberg’s influence in the House has been limited. Michigan leaders have repeatedly criticized his comments on state affairs, questioning his knowledge of pertinent issues. In one instance, Walberg irked former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick by likening the situation in Iraq to Detroit. In another, Walberg took credit for the construction of a new runway at the Battle Creek airport — which he had voted against.

Walberg’s tasteless conservative pandering has only intensified in his campaign for re-election. A recent advertisement from his campaign preposterously compares Schauer with controversial filmmaker Michael Moore, while others misrepresent Schauer’s stance on illegal immigration and protecting jobs. Considering that Walberg’s favorability rating fell to 42 percent in May and many of his Republican colleagues are rushing to endorse his opponent, the level of desperation apparent in his increasingly absurd attack ads isn’t surprising.

As the state Senate Minority Leader and Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s “go-to guy” on budget issues, Schauer is a strong candidate. His policies on education and the economy — albeit a little vague — demonstrate a recognition of important issues that Walberg has lacked. Schauer’s extensive community involvement and state government experience have offered him an unmatched grasp on the issues, bolstering his capacity to effectively represent the district.

Though the Daily doesn’t typically endorse in races outside of Ann Arbor, this race is worthy of an exception. It is one of the most closely watched races in the state. The 7th Congressional district includes part of Washtenaw County. And most importantly, the ideological conflict between Walberg and Schauer typifies many conflicts occurring in congressional campaigns across the country. That is a battle the far right should lose. The Daily, therefore, endorses Mark Schauer for U.S. Representative from Michigan’s 7th Congressional district.

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