This is an excerpt from a column I wrote for Dome Magazine.
By Chad Selweski
It’s been a rough year or two for Macomb County after a prolonged FBI investigation nabbed more than a dozen elected officials and government contractors on corruption charges.
But the lineup on Tuesday’s primary election ballot proves one thing: The county has more kooks than crooks.
Macomb did not disappoint this year, producing yet another crop of wacky candidates who somehow believe they are on the verge of ousting popular incumbents such as County Executive Mark Hackel or winning state House and Senate seats where their brand of extremism contrasts with Macomb’s middle-of-the-road politics.
What we have here is a collection of bigots, conspiracy theorists, ego-driven know-nothings and delusional, perennial election contenders who should have called it quits a decade ago. Selecting the weirdest of the weird is entertaining — though it’s a tough call.
The premier event in Tuesday’s Macomb primary, of course, is the 17-candidate free-for-all to replace the infamous ex-county clerk, Karen Spranger, who was so lacking in ethics and competence that a judge kicked her out of office after just 15 months. Yet, the race to succeed her includes some true oddballs, as the overall ballot includes some Spranger Republican allies who apparently think the disgraced clerk’s name looks good on a resume.
One high-profile Republican candidate for clerk is former county commissioner Nicki Brandenburg of Macomb Township, who in 2008 told police that her then-husband was injecting her with poisonous drugs in her sleep and practicing witchcraft on her. Years ago, Brandenburg was the leader of a Michigan GOP campaign to elect TV evangelist Pat Robertson for president. Earlier this year, she reportedly accompanied Spranger, her newfound political ally, on a trip to Washington, D.C., that was deemed a misuse of taxpayer dollars.
One of the strangest characters over the years in Macomb County political circles has been Robert Murphy of Romeo, who has run for office — mostly state House — approximately 10 times and has never come close to winning. He’s at it again in 2018, running as a Democrat for a House seat in the Democratic primary. In the past, Murphy has variously run as a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent – No Party Affiliation. And he has waged a campaign as a Democrat and a Republican on the same ballot.
What’s that? In 2014, Murphy ran as a Democrat in the 36th District and as a Republican for precinct delegate, which apparently is illegal.
Yet, the winner for the most hallucinatory candidate in Macomb County has to be Jim Perna, a well-known contender eyeing the clerk’s vacancy. From 2008-16, the Democrat-turned-Republican launched four consecutive high-profile campaigns to win back his old county commissioner seat, without any luck.
The reason why his chances remain slim in Tuesday’s countywide primary is that Perna in 2014 was (physically) removed by state authorities from his seat as CEO of a credit union after the financial institution lost $1.5 million under questionable circumstances.
Perhaps the most conspiratorial county candidate is Michael Shallal of Sterling Heights, a competitor for the 10th District state Senate seat in the GOP primary, who is making his fourth run for office.
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