Term limits, other changes needed in government
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Friday 26 February 2010 4:30 PM

From Delmarva media

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After meeting with Maryland Delegates Jim Mathias and Norm Conway, I can understand how people get frustrated with government.

There’s so much going on with a system that tries to be everything to everybody, and has its hand in every endeavor and pocket.

It’s time for term limits. The founding fathers didn’t write them into the Constitution because it was understood that our representatives were citizen legislators who would return to the farm or shop after serving in office, to live under and abide by the laws they had written.

It was not intended to be a lifelong career — and definitely not a pensioned position. Mathias and Conway speak of having term limits, yet they stand for re-election. While true in the strictest sense, incumbents enjoy a marked advantage over a nonincumbent in an election through name recognition, access to the media and fundraising opportunities. The current system, with its seniority arrangement, makes voters reluctant to choose new faces for fear they will not be able to stand against the entrenched power elite who have been in office for 20, 30 or more years. Term limits would level the playing field and remove many of the inequities in a seniority system.

We need basic reform in other areas, as well. A budget that is truly balanced — without robbing Peter to pay Paul — a tax system which encourages business and individual wealth and investment, a school system that rewards innovation and voting that is both reliable and verifiable.

Gloria Moyer

Ocean Pines

U.S. Needs Term Limits
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Friday 26 February 2010 2:09 PM

From The Pilot

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Out-of-control spending by our government is threatening our ­economic security. Printing our currency nonstop without gold backing is sure to set us on a path of double-digit inflation.

World nations are scoffing at the United States about the weak dollar, which is currently the world standard. Our nation, for the first time ever, might be losing its triple A credit rating due to huge deficit spending. The U.S. cannot continue on this pathway of economic destruction.

Special interest groups are becoming a larger influence on our politicians than their own constituents. Unions are given special consideration over the private ­sector. Lobbyists are hired by ­companies to go to Congress and arrange special deals for their employers. These back-room deals are on the taxpayers’ dollar.

The halls of Congress are turning into the small rooms of Congress. On a regular basis, corruption in politics at all levels is brought ­forward by the media. There have been multiple convictions and prison time given to politicians. Being a public servant has changed some lawmakers into a power-grab game job. Term limits would be a powerful deterrent against this type of behavior. The era of career politicians has to be stopped.

My voice will not be silenced, but I have to change my outrage into a reasonable course of action. Americans should peacefully reel back in politicians who have lost sense of what is important to U.S. citizens. Politicians should listen to their constituents, not to corrupt insiders.

Americans demand immediate action no matter which party they are affiliated with. After all, it is “We the people.”

Tony Boles

Carthage

No Mayor-for-Life Frankel: She's rigging system to get around term limits
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Wednesday 24 February 2010 1:18 PM

From The Palm Beach Post

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West Palm Beach Mayor Lois Frankel apparently believes that the city won’t be able to live without her. She wants voters to change the rules so she can run for an unlimited number of terms.

Rumors that the mayor would attempt this power grab have been circulating through the city for months. Even now, though, Mayor Frankel isn’t willing even to be honest about her intentions. The charter review committee that meets for the first time today, Mayor Frankel claims, is not stacked. “I have no ulterior motive,” she told The Post. “The committee was not put together to look at (term limits).”

In fact, the committee’s aim is to keep Mayor Frankel in power. It begins work one year before Mayor Frankel’s second term ends, triggering the limit that would force her from office. If her push to end term limits proves to be unpopular, the mayor has a backup plan that would give her an additional 20 months in office. That plan calls for timing mayoral elections with presidential elections. Instead of leaving office in March 2011, Mayor Frankel would stay until November 2012.

The mayor further sought plausible deniability by claiming that the call for a charter review committee came not from her but from the city commission. On Monday, though, two commissioners said they knew nothing about it. Kimberly Mitchell and Molly Douglas said they didn’t even know that a five-member committee, which the mayor appointed in late January, was being established.

The mayor pointed to a Jan. 4 meeting during which she invited commissioners to suggest appointments. Two took her up on it. Bill Moss and Ike Robinson recommended Dean Turney, who served on the 1992 charter review committee that strengthened the strong-mayor post.

Also on the committee are two members of the mayor’s panel that handles nominations to city boards, Anna Ziegler and Michelle McGovern. Another member, Silvia Moffett, also has been a Frankel supporter. The stacked commission reveals again the mayor’s disdain for voters, which appeared previously in her decision to ignore court rulings unfavorable to the City Center project and her push to revoke a downtown height limit voters passed in 1996.

While the mayor insists that the charter review committee will take a wide-ranging look at the system, you can assume that the members won’t try to dilute her power. Over the years, commissioners have complained that the mayor is too strong. Commissioners rubber-stamp Mayor Frankel’s proposals rather than risk losing her support. At a minimum, commissioners say, they should have their own attorney, and the mayor should not have the sole power to appoint committees, like the one that will review the charter.

Term limits can force competent, experienced politicians from office. In West Palm Beach, however, the two-term limit is the only way to keep a powerful mayor from turning the elected position into a lifelong job. That was the balancing act in the 1991 charter change that created the strong-mayor system. Incumbents have a great advantage; this year, three commissioners won reelection without opposition.

Mayor Frankel has created a scenario in which three hand-picked charter review committee members and three fawning commissioners can give her a chance at limitless terms or, as a consolation prize, a free 20-month job extension. This is West Palm Beach, not a kingdom.

USTL President Phil Blumel Interview
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Tuesday 23 February 2010 1:15 PM

From Time.com

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One of the most common laments one hears from voters — and there are a lot of them these days — is that members of Congress aren’t subject to term limits. There’s a perception, accurate in some cases, that longevity in office leads to corruption and that greater turnover would somehow fix Washington’s gridlock.

But one need only look at some states’ experience with term limits to see such a remedy is no magic pill: politicians who are term-limited often just use their temporary offices as stepping stones and don’t invest in the institutions.

Democracies as far back as ancient Greece and Rome have flirted with term limits; after all you don’t want to hand an elected official the same lifetime power of potential tyranny you just stripped from Caesar or King Louis XVI. When American democracy was being formed, many of its founders, including Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, supported congressional term limits, “to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress,” as Jefferson wrote. (See why Washington is tied up in knots.)

The recommendations weren’t, ultimately, included in the Constitution because the founding fathers saw a tradition of rotation forming. George Washington set the precedent of two terms in the White House and those in Congress so abhorred the idea of political power that a natural changing of the guard occurred until the turn of the 20th century. Representatives couldn’t wait to dispose of their duties and return home, as it was commonly held that “contact with the affairs of state is one of the most corrupting of the influences to which men are exposed,” wrote author James Fenimore Cooper.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s death shortly after being re-elected to a fourth term prompted Congress to quickly pass a constitutional amendment limiting the Commander in Chief to two terms. The amendment was ratified in 1951, but moves to limit congressional terms 40 years later were struck down in 1995 by the Supreme Court.

By the end of the 20th century, movements had sprung up on the right and the left to set term limits and nearly every referendum on the issue passed by a 2-to-1 vote. “Term limits sever from time to time the natural comfortable tie between members and special interests in their district. They bring government closer to the people and improve citizen access to the process,” says Philip Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, the largest advocacy group in the field. (See “Washington’s Time for Bipartisanship: Retirement.”)

But as America’s power expanded from a ragtag collection of 13 colonies to the world’s only superpower, so too did the responsibilities of the legislative branch. No longer can members of Congress convene for a few months in the spring while spending the rest of the year on their farms. The greater power has added bureaucracy and it often takes the clout and leverage of an elder statesman to push through legislation: just look at the prolific careers of Ted Kennedy or Everett Dirksen.

Currently 15 state legislatures and 36 governors are subject to term limits. “The experience in states, including California, has been negative: assembly members look to run for the state senate or Congress, Senators look for congressional seats, or lawmakers look out for cushy jobs in the private sector afterward, thus giving more power to the permanent staff. Bad idea,” says Norm Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and co-author of The Broken Branch: How Congress Is Failing America and How to Get It Back on Track.

Newt Gingrich included a constitutional amendment to limit politicians to 12 years in both the House and the Senate in his 1994 Contract with America. But it was one plank of the contract that even Gingrich couldn’t push through the House: it failed two months into Gingrich’s speakership 227 to 204. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority (at that time 290 votes were needed) plus a two-thirds majority in the Senate and it must be ratified by two-thirds of the states — making any changes to the current system unlikely in the near future.

Still, politicians should take the calls for term limits as a barometer of how unhappy the public is with the job they’re doing. Once more, term limits has become a rallying cry from the Tea Party movement to dozens of state initiatives that will be on the ballot come November.

“Missing Bush?” Why Republican Revisionism Won’t Sell
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Posted by Howard Rich | Columns
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| Monday 22 February 2010 1:32 PM

As America loudly repudiates the leftist agenda of President Barack Obama and his Congressional allies, a group of partisan GOP opportunists is busy promoting a theory of “Republican revisionism.”

What does this theory hold?

Namely, that the GOP wasn’t “all that bad” – and certainly not as bad as the socialist hordes who have ostensibly pushed America to the brink of financial ruin over the last year. In advancing this theory, the GOP is looking to recast itself as a party that can be trusted with your tax dollars – while simultaneously attempting to reframe the legacy of the President (and dozens of other GOP politicians) who couldn’t be trusted with your tax dollars.

This effort is most clearly visible in the GOP’s recent attempts to co-opt the Tea Party movement. It can also be seen within the opportunistic machinations of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who has been pushing a new “Contract with America” in spite of his obvious betrayal – and subsequent scuttling – of the original movement fifteen years ago.

The GOP’s new revisionist message was summed up in a billboard that appeared recently on Interstate 35 in Wyoming.

“Miss me yet?” a smiling picture of former President Bush asks passing motorists.

In a word? “No.”

What this theory of “Republican revisionism” lacks is even a tangential basis in fact. That’s because Republicans – at least prior to the election of a Democratic Congress in 2006 and a Democratic President in 2008 – were engaged in precisely the same policies they now spend all of their time railing against.

Honestly – why do you think they were booted out of power in the first place?

Republicans are no strangers to massive government overreaching.

For example, President Bush responded to the September 11 terrorist attacks by creating a huge new government bureaucracy, implementing an Orwellian domestic wiretapping capability and engaging our military in two costly foreign wars with no defined objectives and no exit strategy.

Meanwhile, he supported the unconstitutional suppression of free speech by signing so-called “campaign finance” reform, dramatically stifling the ability of the public to criticize incumbent politicians. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has since overturned several of McCain-Feingold’s most anti-First Amendment provisions.

Bush and his cronies loved pork barrel spending, too. In 2005 – over the strenuous objections of taxpayer advocates – he signed a massive $286 billion transportation bill that included 6,371 pet projects inserted by Republican and Democratic lawmakers. The bill was a pork-fest that dwarfed previous Democratic transportation boondoggles.

Why did a Republican President sign such a monstrosity?

“The president has to work with the Congress,” a Bush spokesman said at the time.

In case anyone forgot, Republicans controlled both the U.S. House and Senate in 2005.

Bush and his GOP allies also fought to create new entitlement spending – including a prescription drug benefit to Medicaid that has cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars. They federalized education with No Child Left Behind, although erasing the “soft bigotry of low expectations” has done nothing to bridge America’s achievement and innovation gap with the rest of the world.

Perhaps most revealing, for the vast majority of his administration, the “conservative” Bush kept his veto pen in his pocket – refusing to wield the one potent weapon (other than the bully pulpit) that could have been employed on behalf of American taxpayers.

As a result of Bush’s fiscal recklessness, budget surpluses turned into deficits and a $5.7 trillion national debt soared to $10 trillion. Also, Republicans are quick to forget that Bush is on the hook for a considerable portion of the unsustainable spending that is currently driving our debt even further into the stratosphere.

Indeed, Bush cemented his anti-free market legacy in late 2008 with the passage of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) and tens of billions of dollars worth of automotive bailouts – additional examples of his kneejerk tendency to resolve every crisis faced by the nation with an unprecedented expansion of government power and taxpayer debt.

Was Bush a better steward of your tax dollars than Obama?

Yes – but that’s the problem. Getting mugged worse the second time around doesn’t absolve the first thief of his culpability.

The simple, unavoidable truth is that Bush and his GOP allies were fiscal liberals, and no amount of “Republican revisionism” can erase that fact.

Give students more choices
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Wednesday 17 February 2010 2:30 PM

From APP.com

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A bill that would create a public school choice program, allowing students from one school district to enroll in schools in other districts participating in the program, is expected to be considered by an Assembly panel Thursday. It would be a good stepping-off point for the next state education commissioner to revamp how education is delivered in New Jersey.

The bill, sponsored by Assemblywomen Mila Jasey, D-Essex, and Joan Voss, D-Bergen, would expand and make permanent an interdistrict public school choice pilot program that expired in 2005. The pilot program allowed only a fixed number of schools districts to accept out-of-district students. The new measure wouldn’t limit the number of “choice districts” permitted.

Potential choice districts would apply for approval to the state based on criteria that would include the quality and variety of academic programs. The bill has built-in safeguards to prevent cherry-picking of students by the receiving schools.

The choice program would not only allow students in poor-performing schools and districts to attend better schools outside of their home district, but it would enable “choice districts” to continue offering courses and programs that declining enrollment might not otherwise allow. It also would generate additional revenue for the district, because the state aid would follow the student.

In addition, expanding school choice would allow regions and counties to establish more specialty or magnet programs for students who show a special interest or aptitude in a particular academic area. It could enable schools in low-performing districts to improve their academic standing by attracting students with an aptitude in the school’s particular interest area.

In recent years, many high schools have begun offering magnet programs that cater to a specific academic or vocational interest. But children in neighboring towns that don’t have sending-district arrangements haven’t been able to take advantage of the options. If specialty programs were coordinated at the county level, it could lead to more schools providing a wider range of offerings.

Bret Schundler, Gov. Chris Christie’s nominee for state education commissioner, is a longtime proponent of school choice. If he is confirmed, he should start by working with Jasey and Voss to help shape the bill and reaching out to county superintendents to identify which schools already offer specialty programs and what programs could be pursued by districts that don’t yet have an area of expertise. This could be the first of many building blocks to help provide a more well-rounded choice of educational offerings across the state.

Owners Oppose Eminent Domain
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Property Rights
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| Wednesday 17 February 2010 11:27 AM

From KSBI T.V

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City leaders say 692 acres of South Oklahoma City should be declared blighted. Business owners say they fear eminent domain and the fight is on.”

“Don’t lie to us,” said Louis Morgan.

Morgan says he was lied to. As owner of the City Carbonic Company, he was told the Core to Shore and MAPS 3 projects would not affect him. But now he knows that’s not the case.

“That means I got to move. I’m not going to have a choice, they aren’t giving me a choice,” said Morgan.

In this area the city will build a brand new park and to do that they want to use eminent domain to take hundreds of acres around it for other development.

But Morgan says he wasn’t the only one that was lied to. He says MAPS 3 voters were mislead into passing the project.

“They only showed the voters the park and what they were going to do on the river. They didn’t tell them they were going to use eminent domain and do urban renewal and blight 692 acres,” said Morgan.

Morgan is holding a meeting at his business on Saturday to discuss the city’s actions. City Carbonic Sales and Service Company is at 406 SW 4th street.

The “Green Jobs” Scam Unmasked
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Posted by Howard Rich | Columns
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| Friday 12 February 2010 2:13 PM

A year after it was passed, it has become painfully obvious to anyone with open eyes that the massive federal “stimulus” – along with several other trillion-dollar government interventions in the free market – has utterly failed to turn around America’s economy. In fact, all this massive infusion of taxpayer cash has done is deprive our consumer-driven private sector of much-needed oxygen, while sending our annual deficits and national debt soaring to previously unthinkable heights.

It’s the classic Washington approach to the economy. When times are good, politicians in both parties spend excessively. When times are bad? They spend uncontrollably.

As a result, at a time when families and small businesses were – and are still – forced to go without, government continues to grow by obscene levels, using every excuse in the book to justify its largesse.

Among those excuses?

“Green Jobs.”

I wrote on this issue just last month, making the fundamental point that investing billions in “Green Jobs” had failed to stimulate the economy (or create jobs), and that Barack Obama’s pledge to invest billions more in “Green Jobs” was the wrong answer moving forward.

This month, we’re discovering in detail why that is true.

According to a series of new reports, billions of dollars in “stimulus” money that was supposed to go toward creating “Green Jobs” here in America instead went to foreign-owned companies – who “created or saved” the vast majority of their jobs overseas. Obviously there is nothing wrong with America investing in foreign businesses, as protectionism is a recipe for disaster.

According to an ABC News report, though, almost $2 billion in “stimulus” funding has been spent so far on wind power, and yet 80% of that money has gone to foreign-owned companies.

“Most of the jobs are going overseas,” researcher Russ Choma told ABC. “According to our estimates, about 6,000 jobs have been created overseas, and maybe a couple hundred have been created in the U.S.”

In fact, despite receiving this windfall of “stimulus” cash, the U.S. wind manufacturing sector actually lost jobs in 2009, according to a year-end report by its professional association. Also, most of the jobs “created or saved” in America have been temporary construction positions, or “management” hires.

The real job creation (or job salvation, to use Obama’s disingenuous math) has taken place beyond our borders.

Consider these examples, courtesy of a recent report from The Watchdog Institute:

Eurus Energy America, a subsidiary of a Japanese-owned firm, received $91 million in “stimulus” funds and created only 300 to 400 temporary construction jobs. Permanent jobs created? Less than a dozen.

EnXco, a French-owned firm, received $69.5 million in “stimulus” funds and yet produced only 200 construction jobs and “about a dozen” permanent positions.

A-Power, a Chinese-owned firm, is in line to receive nearly $450 million in “stimulus” funds – for a project that will create thousands of Chinese jobs but only a few dozen American positions.
Cannon Power Group, an American-owned firm, received $19 million in “stimulus” funds but spend most of that on German-made turbines. So far they have created fewer than 300 construction jobs and “20 to 30” permanent positions. Cannon is in line to receive another $150 million in “stimulus” funds, by the way.

In case the trend isn’t clear, America’s massive investment in “Green Jobs” has been a colossal, costly failure – unless you’re looking for work overseas. For all the promises of the Obama administration, here at home these taxpayers billions have amounted to little more than a few thousand temporary construction positions and a few hundred management jobs.

In fact, there’s a good chance that the government employees hired to promote “Green Jobs” outnumber the actual permanent “Green Jobs” created. However you do the math, these positions are obviously a mere drop in the bucket compared to U.S. job losses in the wind manufacturing segment of the energy economy alone, to say nothing of the millions of lost jobs nationwide.

Worse still, the lunacy isn’t stopping. We are continuing to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed framework, which uses American sweat to create permanent positions (and profit) for foreign companies.

Frankly, it’s time for Obama to come clean on the “Green Jobs” scam – and to explain why his so-called “transparent and accountable” administration didn’t catch it sooner.

The Milwaukee story: School choice works
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, School Choice
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| Thursday 11 February 2010 2:19 PM

From PittsburghLive.com

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Here’s a report to make school choice critics reach for the Pepto: More low-income students in Milwaukee’s 20-year-old voucher program — 18 percent more — graduate from high school than their traditional public school peers.

In fact, if Milwaukee’s public school graduation rate matched that of students using school vouchers from 2003 to 2008, 3,352 additional students would have received diplomas, according to the study by University of Minnesota professor John Robert Warren.

Add to that a study reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The annual economic benefit from all those high school grads would be an additional $21.2 million in personal income and about $3.6 million more in tax revenues.

Did we mention that Milwaukee’s school choice students cost less than half the $14,011 per-pupil cost of students in the city’s public schools?

It’s a cold dose of reality for those who demonize school choice as a needless draw on education dollars with nary any benefits — which, in fact, are abundantly evident in other school choice programs across the nation.

As President Obama so appropriately put it in his State of the Union speech, “Instead of funding the status quo, we only invest in reform that raises student achievement.”

The choice couldn’t be more clear.

Ehlers Term-Limits Himself
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Posted by Howard Rich | Issues
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, Term Limits
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| Thursday 11 February 2010 2:09 PM

FromPublicBroadcasting.net

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GRAND RAPIDS, MI (Michigan Radio) – Congressman Vern Ehlers says he will not run for re-election this year. The Grand Rapids Republican is retiring after 16 years serving in Washington.

Ehlers says he’s considered retiring each of the past few election cycles.

He says he detests the mandatory term limits for legislators in Lansing, because local leaders barely have time to learn the job before they’re kicked out of office.

"But I think those of us who don’t have term limits to live with should recognize that there comes a time when it’s time for new ideas, new approaches and so forth," he says. "And I’ve always tried to balance that."

Ehlers says another factor in his decision is the upcoming redistricting process. Congressional seats will be redrawn after the 2010 census. Ehlers says leaving now will make it easier for a Republican to win the seat and hold on to it.

Contact Dustin Dwyer at dtdwyer@umich.edu.

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