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Published: Thursday, 2/7/2002

DeRossett may switch districts

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - State Rep. Gene DeRossett (R., Manchester) has said it is “probable” that he won't seek re-election in the western Monroe County district that he has represented in the state House for the last four years.

Instead he will run for his third and final term in the newly created 52nd district that includes his home in southern Washtenaw County. Redistricting efforts last year put his residence in another district.

Mr. DeRossett, whose home is in the 52nd district but who has owned land in the 55th district for over 30 years, could still chose to run for either post to seek a third two-year term in the state House of Representatives. He said he planned to finalize his decision sometime this month, but wants to continue to concentrate on representing the residents of the 55th House district, which includes Erie, Bedford, Whiteford, Summerfield, Dundee, and Milan townships in Monroe County.

“This is not a situation I created. But I live in [Washtenaw County's] Freedom Township, and I don't envision that I will be moving back into the 55th district just to run for elected office,” Mr. DeRossett said.

“I need to focus on [being a representative] right now. The campaign will happen soon enough. I just think it's a little early to confuse people by saying I'm considering running for another district.”

Mr. DeRossett said that if he does decide to run in the 52nd district, which includes most of Washtenaw County outside the city of Ann Arbor, he would miss the relationships he has built with his constituents in Monroe County over the last four years. What he won't miss is all the driving that's been required to make meetings across the geographically large district.

“It's disappointing that I'm going to lose a district that I've gotten to know over the last four years. I'm going to miss a lot of people that I've gotten to know in Monroe County. But there have been days that I've put 350 miles on my car just driving within my district,” Mr. DeRossett said. “If I drive from my house down to Monroe County and back, it's over 100 miles.”

Mr. DeRossett's likely decision means that the 55th district - which includes Erie, Bedford Whiteford, Summerfield, Dundee, and Milan townships in Monroe County - will be an open seat one term earlier than was expected. That's left party leaders searching for viable candidates.

“We are in conversation with the state House and Senate [Democratic] caucuses. We've met with both caucuses about potential candidates for both the house and senate seats. There are people that have shown interest in both house seats in Monroe County and in the county's senate seat, but I'll wait for them to announce whether they're going to run or not,” Mik Jackson, Monroe County Democratic chairman, said.

“The redistricting really improved the Democratic base in the 55th House seat, which kind of surprised me. Because there's not an incumbent, I think you'll see us very active in trying to win that House seat back,” Mr. Jackson said.

Mr. Jackson said that the redrawn district improves the chances of electing a Democrat. However, local Republicans remain confident that they can retain the seat that the GOP has occupied since the district was created in 1992.

Monroe County Republican Chairman Greg Stewart, who lives in Bedford Township, said he believes his party will ultimately have to hold a primary to pick a candidate. “We're going to try and promote and recruit the best candidates we can,” Mr. Stewart said. So far, just one Republican, William Dean, who is the township supervisor in Washtenaw County's York Township, is the only declared candidate for either party. But Mr. Stewart said others are considering a bid.

“I think there will probably be three or four candidates out there by the time we're all done,” Mr. Stewart said.



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