Incumbent U.S. Rep. Sander Levin and members of the Oakland County Democratic ticket rallied supporters Tuesday evening during a picnic in Berkley.
Approximately 70 people turned out to hear Levin and a handful of Democratic candidates – including incumbent Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, Oakland County executive hopeful Kevin Howley and Oakland County sheriff contender Jane Felice Boudreau – during the invitation-only event at .
"We have a very strong ticket. There isn't a weak link, so let's work like the dickens," Levin told the crowd as he stood with the candidates, each of whom spoke briefly.
- Meisner, of Huntington Woods, said he has been doing a lot of door-to-door visits with voters and has heard concerns about Social Security and Medicare.
- , said people with whom she has spoken have expressed puzzlement over why jails have been closed, yet overcrowding is an issue.
- Howley, of Huntington Woods, said "there's this sense that (Oakland County executive L.) Brooks Patterson owns the county and he's going to win." But, Howley said, with empty malls in Waterford, empty office buildings in Troy and empty manufacturing facilities on Maple Road, voters are looking for a different economic vision for the future.
Levin also acknowledged Oakland County Clerk candidate Lisa Brown of West Bloomfield and incumbent Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper, whose campaign is based in Bingham Farms. Neither could attend the picnic.
"This is the year of the women," quipped Boudreau.
Kevin Hrit of Berkley, who serves as political organizing director of the Michigan Democratic Party, attended on behalf of incumbent U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing.
"I bring greetings from (Chairman) Mark Brewer and the Michigan Democratic Party," Hrit told the crowd before ticking off a list of Stabenow's attributes.
He cited her roles as a champion of the auto industry who helped bring President Barack Obama's bailout plan to fruition and chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, noting agriculture is the No. 2 industry in Michigan.
"That's the kind of leadership we need in Washington," Hrit said.
When asked what is at stake in the November election, Levin, who is running to represent the 9th Congressional District, responded simply.
"Everything's at stake – all the programs that have mattered here (in Berkley)," he said, citing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. "The Republicans essentially want to rip up all these programs. ... More and more, people understand this is a Republican party that has taken a rigid right turn."
As the Democrats convened Tuesday in Berkley, all Republican eyes were turned toward Tampa, Fla., where that party was holding its national convention to officially anoint presidential hopeful Gov. Mitt Romney as its candidate against Obama.
The centerpiece of Romney's campaign – tax cuts to stimulate the economy – also was approved during the convention Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
Levin, who was elected to the Michigan state Senate in 1964 and has deep roots in Berkley, said the current political climate is the most polarized he's ever seen.
"I have known Sandy since I was 8 years old. The Levins lived kitty-corner to us in Berkley," said Berkley resident and former Board of Education member Gary Shea, who attended the event Tuesday. "I remember stuffing envelopes for him in the '60s. So, our families knew each other way back then."
Levin, who now lives in Royal Oak, moved to Berkley in 1958 and, with his late wife Vicki, raised four children in the city.
"It's a very typical middle income place," he said. "Communities like this have depended on their own initiative, but also on federal programs."