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Sep 25, 2008

Andrew Concannon is a Democrat running for Congress in a Michigan district that has been Republican for most of the last 155 years. If anything should be predictable in an otherwise unpredictable political year, it is that Concannon is going to lose. What makes him run?

By FLYP Staff

“The district needed a new voice,’’ insists Andrew Concannon, a 41-year-old lawyer and political novice. And he tells anyone who will listen: “Dave Camp isn’t asking for your vote—he’s expecting it.”
Well, yes, actually—and, according to experts who have looked at the race, the 18-year incumbent is likely to get it. Michigan’s 4th Congressional district is overwhelmingly white, rural and socially conservative. It is about as reliably Republican as any seat in the country.
But it is also a district where there are more economic losers than winners, in a year when economic worries are driving the headlines. Concannon thinks his brand of economic populism—“fair trade” and criticism of the Bush tax cuts—should persuade voters at least to listen to his pitch and, perhaps, send him to Washington.
He also believes that Representative Camp’s 18 years in office have left him out of touch with the district. The challenger believes that Camp has become too much of a Washington insider, too knee-jerk pro-Bush and too wedded to the past at a time when Republicans and Democrats alike say they want change.

Watch our short documentary video of Andrew Concannon on the campaign trail.

Persuading the voters, though, is proving to be a challenge. It doesn’t help that Concannon is for Roe v. Wade and reinstating a federal ban on sales of automatic weapons at gun shows, and against a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. None of this resonates with many of the conservative voters he needs to wean away from Camp.
In the year when the Internet seemingly transformed how American politics are done, Concannon’s campaign looks and feels like a throwback.
What do you do when your opponent has twelve times as much money and when “there would be nothing that could ever make me vote for him” is not an unusual response from the district’s dyed-in-the-wool Republican base?
Concannon’s answer is to campaign the old fashioned way. Introduce himself door to door. March in small town parades. Sponsor fundraising events where friends and family sometimes outnumber donors. Shake endless hands and endlessly repeat that Camp is no longer the man for the job.
Trying to convert life-long Republicans can be frustrating. In a parade in Stanton, a small town in Montcalm County, Concannon reaches out to shake the hand of Gordon Johnson, 73, a retired schoolteacher. He is the sort of voter who should be willing to listen to a populist Democrat. 
Johnson simply says “wrong party” and keeps his arms folded. 
Concannon doesn’t take the rejections personally. After all, the election is weeks away and there are thousands of other hands to try to shake and converts to be made. 
The upshot to being a long shot is that there is always next time. As his wife and co-campaigner Tracy points out, “our signs—you notice don’t have a year on them.”


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