With less than two weeks before Election Day, supporters of Troy Mayor Janice Daniels are battling hard with those who want to recall her just one year after she was narrowly elected.
The recall vote, supporters say, is about much more than a part-time mayor's post that pays $175 a month.
"If we lose Janice, there's going to be national headlines all over the country -- tea party goes down," conservative activist Norm Hughes of Metamora told a gathering of tea party activists this week.
The effort to block a recall of Troy's mayor is resonating beyond the boundaries of the city. Networks of tea party organizers and other conservatives are focused on the race as a key bellwether for the future of their movement, statewide and across the country.
The recall language says Daniels, a former real estate agent, has:
--Verbally attacked city employees at a public meeting.
--Made offensive remarks about homosexuals.
--Referred to the city charter's language as "whimsical" and removed any reference to the charter in her oath of office.
--Opposed accepting federal aid to build a regional transit center.
She responds that she has broken no laws and that voters are more upset with her contentious style than her actual views. But many recall supporters say she has an abrasive leadership style and injects partisan politics in an office that is nonpartisan.
For die-hard conservatives, the stakes involve much more than Troy in Daniels' fight for survival.
On Tuesday, Hughes and the group of about 40 watched as a brown bus with bold lettering reading "Tea Party Express" rolled into the parking lot of the American Polish Cultural Center in Troy.
Out jumped political candidates and organizers to greet the crowd. Standing in the crowd was Daniels, 59, who extolled her achievements and labeled her opponents "a dissatisfied set of politically well-connected individuals."
"Let's pray for the community of Troy to vote resoundingly -- no recall," she said. "I have been forged in a very hot flame in my new political career, and I believe this will all work to the good."
Also in the crowd was Casey Hill, 20, of Alpena, the head of a political action committee called No Troy Recall. She's living temporarily in White Lake Township and is working to help save Daniels' job.
Hill, who didn't address the crowd, said afterward that keeping Daniels was tantamount to "keeping the conservative movement going in Michigan."
In Daniels' case and in other recall efforts around the country, Hill said, "It's liberal groups using the recall process to stamp out the tea party movement."
Those who seek recall next month said they also have out-of-town support, but it's scattered and lacks the ideological intensity of the other side. For them, the issue is more about governance at their local city hall, and the image of their city.
Still, the recall effort gained from months of Internet postings as well as contributions from gay rights supporters and others angered last fall when Daniels' Facebook quip about "queers" being allowed to marry in New York state became public -- a slur that brought notoriety to Troy on talk shows and blogs nationwide.
From New York City came one of the campaign's bigger contributions -- $500, sent by a man who grew up in Troy, said patent lawyer Matt Binkowski, one of the two organizers of the recall effort. Backing also came from Oakland County Commissioner Craig Covey, the openly gay former mayor of Ferndale who led a delegation of gay Ferndale residents to a "Recall Daniels" fund-raiser in Troy in August. He held a fund-raiser in Ferndale for the recall effort Oct. 7, raising $863, said Binkowski, 40, whose office sits across Big Beaver Road from City Hall.
"But 85% of our contributions are coming from Troy residents," he said. For most, the election is about whether the city is well-served by a political extremist elected with a narrow margin, Binkowski said.
According to the Oakland County Election Division, Daniels won with 51.9% of the vote in an election with a 26% turnout.
The website of a key Daniels supporter, Troy political consultant Glenn Clark, implores supporters to fight the recall effort being led by "the same crowd that went after Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin." Clark said the campaign needs $4,000 for "our final push."
Yet, the failed Wisconsin recall was mounted largely by that state's public employee unions. Unions aren't playing a role in Troy, said John Kulesz, the other recall campaign organizer.
"We're not backed by outside interests. This is Troy voters trying to restore Troy's image," said Kulesz, 41, also a lawyer.
Linda Kajma, a retired General Motors engineer who is now self-employed, said recall supporters in Troy include Republicans, Democrats and independents.
"I and several of my neighbors have (Republican presidential candidate Mitt) Romney signs, and we also have Vote Yes on the Recall" signs, she said.
(c)2012 the Detroit Free Press