Nadir's MTV Street Team '08 ProfileOriginally Published at

Don’t get it twisted. John McCain did not pull out of Michigan, and Republicans are going to make a strong showing in races across the state. That note of confidence comes from Central Michigan University senior Dennis Lennox.

The 24 year-old Lennox has been working for McCain and other GOP candidates throughout northern Michigan. He’s running the Republican Party office in his county, and in addition, he is the Republican candidate for Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner.

“There is still a huge grassroots effort for John McCain in this state,” Lennox explains in a phone interview from his job at Cheboygan County Republican Party headquarters. “[Michigan] is an extremely close state. You may not see the TV ads from his campaign, but there are TV ads from independent groups.”

Though McCain’s exit from Michigan was dramatic and highly publicized, it didn’t eliminate his presence in the state. “Every local Republican Party in the state is still making phone calls for John McCain,” Dennis says. “We’re still knocking on doors, so he’s still here. He’s still trying to win Michigan.”

According to Lennox, reports of John McCain’s demise are widely exaggerated. “Despite what most young people are hearing from the mainstream media, the race for president is extremely close. Depending on which poll you see [McCain and Obama] are either tied or within the margin of error for one candidate or the other,” Lennox says.

And that goes for races further down the ballot as well. In Michigan all 110 seats in the state House of Representatives are up for grabs. All 15 U.S. Congressional seats and one of the state’s two senate seats are being contested.

“A lot of people forget that this election isn’t just about the presidency,” warns Lennox. ”In Michigan, most counties and cities have a two sided ballot, everything from the township supervisor all the way up to the president of the United States. At the state level we have an extremely high number of close races for the legislature, for the supreme court and for the whole host of local positions on the ballot as well.”

Though the presidential election is important, and sets a tone for much of what happens throughout the country, this nation as a whole pays much more attention to national contests rather than the races in local communities. That’s partially because news media has become largely centralized over the last thirty years through corporate conglomeration.

But young politicians like Dennis Lennox understand that the machinations of local and state government have a greater impact on American lives. “I wish more young people particularly would focus on the local races, because, as the saying goes, ‘all politics are local’,” he says. “The president is always on the news, your congressman is on the news, but by and large, most of the policies affecting a young person’s daily life are controlled at the local and state level.”

As a candidate for office on this year’s ballot, Dennis would love to have more light shed on local elections. In Michigan the county drain commissioner is one of the most powerful positions in local government. The drain commissioner is the only government office at a local or state level that can directly levy taxes without a vote of the electorate. “Your sheriff may be able to arrest you, but your drain commissioner can tax you,” Lennox says.

Dennis Lennox has been involved in politics for much of his later years. In 2004 he worked full-time for George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. In 2007 Lennox decided to run for state representative, but dropped out of that race when the Republican incumbent in his district chose not to retire.

The astute Republican then observed that two-term incumbent John Pietrangelo, Cheboygan County’s only elected Democrat, was running unopposed for county drain commissioner. Lennox signed up, and is confident that he will win since the northern Michigan county is 65% Republican.

And with a victory, he will work to abolish the office of drain commissioner in Cheboygan County.

“We really don’t have many drains, but we’re required by law to have a drain commissioner because of the size of the population of our county.”   With little new construction and not much call for drain maintenance, Dennis believes the duties of the drain commissioner could be handled by the road commissioner as is the practice in smaller counties. Lennox admits that there are very few candidates for public office who run on a platform of abolishing their position. He has pledged not to take the commissioner’s salary if elected. “I’m running purely on a stance of making a difference and bettering my community and maybe cutting a little fat where we can,” Lennox says.

As a conservative Lennox feels this is very important for Cheboygan. Like much of Michigan, young people are leaving the northern county for other states looking for work. Lennox says the county consistently ranks near the top of the state’s unemployment figures, and Michigan leads the nation with the highest unemployment rate. That leaves older residents to fend for themselves with a shrinking tax base.

“I come home and I realize it’s time for a change,” says Dennis.“Having some fresh blood and some young people involved at a local level in Michigan probably wouldn’t be such a bad thing whether they are Democrat or Republican.”


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