Is Something Fishy In Michigan’s 8th District?

by Sandi Behrns

Speculation is flying that another Alvin Greene type scam is underway in Michigan’s 8th Congressional District. Of course, this assumes two things 1) that Alvin Greene is in fact a scam, and 2) you must believe the worst about the sole Democrat on Tuesday’s ballot, Kande Ngalamulume (pronounced KAHN’-dee GAH’-lah-moo-loo-may.) Whether there are actual shenanigans at play or not, it is a strange story.

Kande Ngalamulume grew up in East Lansing after his family emigrated from the former Zaire in the 1990’s. He was a star athlete while attending Michigan State University, but left the state after graduation in 2002. In early March, Ngalamulume left his job in Philadelphia and moved back to East Lansing to throw his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination to unseat five-term Republican congressman Mike Rogers.  As the only Democrat in the running, he quickly gained endorsements, including that of the United Auto Workers (UAW); and with decent fund-raising dollars coming in, set up a campaign office.

On June 2nd, one week after the filing deadline, he abruptly suspended his campaign, citing fund-raising difficulties. Less than a week later, he officially called off  his campaign and left the state to return to Philadelphia, effectively leaving Rep. Rogers to run unopposed in November. If we add to this Mr. Ngalamulume’s previous employment as an analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield, I think you can see how theories of a fraudulent Republican plant can start to swirl.

Mike Rogers is not only an incumbent, he also has strong ties to K-Street, having been tarnished by association with none other than Jack Abramoff. He is currently sitting on campaign funds of nearly a million dollars. What this means is that if he has the luxury of running unopposed this year, he can funnel money and resources to other Republican candidates in Michigan districts that are not quite such safe bets. It also leaves him free to focus more on his unending efforts to bring oil drilling to the Great Lakes.

The 8th District, while an easy hold for Rogers the last four elections, was formerly represented by Senator Debbie Stabenow. In fact, Rogers barely won the seat in 2000, by a margin of 111 votes (which is a whole other story in itself). In 2008, Barack Obama took the district by a 2-1 margin.  It would not be outside the realm of possibility for a Democrat to give Mr. Rogers a run for his money, but circumstances have left Democrats without a candidate.  But wait, you say, “surely there’s a way the Democrats can get another candidate on the ballot?” Indeed there is. The party may petition to replace Mr. Ngalamulume on the general election ballot if he a) dies or b) registers to vote in another district or state.

Being a good Democrat, naturally Mr Ngalamulume would be happy to do what is necessary to allow the party to field a candidate, right? Unfortunately for 8th District Dems, no. Thus far, Mr. Ngalamulume has refused to register elsewhere, saying that he will register in whatever city he settles when he finds a new job. And the conspiracy theory grows stronger…

There is, however, a third option. Kande Ngalamulme will not appear on the ballot in November if he is defeated in Tuesday’s primary. As it is too late for another candidate to get his or her name on the ballot, a write-in campaign is the only solution.

Enter Lance Enderle.  A 41-year-old father and educator, he has been active in Michigan politics for many years, working on over 150 campaigns and even running for the state legislature in 1999. With this experience, he has gained knowledge of what it will take to be successful in this campaign.

The only way Enderle can hope to win as a write-in candidate is to get the word out. Over the last four weeks, that is precisely what he has done.When I spoke with him Saturday morning, he was dead tired from knocking on doors and shaking hands, but also upbeat and enthusiastic about his chances.

In an off-year congressional primary, it can be estimated that as few as 2000 votes could make Lance Enderle the Democratic candidate. Of course, even that is a tall order for a write-in campaign. The Michigan Secretary of State’s office can find no record of any write-in candidate ever winning a major party primary. Unfortunately, it is the only option Mr. Ngalamulume has left Democrats in MI-08.

When asked about his primary opponent’s actions, Enderle doesn’t care to get into the conspiracy theory, saying that he believes Ngalamulume simply “found himself in over his head.”  This writer is inclined to agree, as tantalizing as the conspiracy might be. In fact, Ngalamulume has reportedly said that he may return to Michigan to resume his campaign if he wins the primary. From what I’m hearing out of East Lansing, he is unlikely to find much support within the district in that case. This means that for Democrats in the 8th, Tuesday’s get out the vote effort for write-in candidate Lance Enderle is crucial.

About Sandi Behrns

Sandi Behrns is a noted policy nerd, new media & web developer, and consultant to progressive organizations and campaigns. She is a senior contributor to Liberaland, and the Executive Editor of Progressive Congress News.

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