Remembering Michigan GOP Ex-Rep. Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell had it all. He owned and operated the Ross Medical Education Center, the for-profit allied-health with 40 offices throughout 7 states. By the time he was 60, Mitchell was worth nearly $40 million.

Happily married to wife Sherry, the Michigan State University graduate was a devoted father of six.

But Mitchell wanted something else badly: He wanted to be a politician. To those who knew the former two-term Republican U.S. representative from Michigan, his passing at age 64 on Aug. 15 evoked the title of Richard Condon’s classic 1978 novel: Death of a Politician.

“Paul Mitchell was a multi-millionaire who was suddenly struck with a lust for public office in mid-life,” recalled Bill Ballenger, editor of the much-read, online “The Ballenger Report” on Michigan politics. “He seemed ambitious, full of energy and he had lots of money.”

He launched a bid in 2013 to succeed retiring state Sen. Roger Kahn in the Wolverine State’s 32nd District (Saginaw County). But when it became obvious that three-term state Rep. Kenneth Horn was the runaway favorite of area Republicans, Mitchell — who knew a thing or two about not wasting money — withdrew from the race.

Mitchell went on to head up the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which mobilized “values voters” in Michigan. In 2014, he ran for the 4th District U.S. House seat vacated by veteran Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.

As well-connected and well-financed as the Mitchell campaign was, state Sen. John Moolenaar had the backing of the Midland business establishment that was key to electing Camp and his predecessor (former State Attorney General Rep. Bill Schuette). Moolenaar won with 56% of the vote.

In 2015, Mitchell was chairman of the citizens’ group to defeat Proposal One, a statewide initiative that would have raised sales taxes for roads. The “no” votes won with more than 80%.

When Rep. Candice Miller, R-Macomb County, announced her retirement in the nearby 10th District, Mitchell purchased a home in the district (Dryden Township) and pursued the Republican nomination to succeed her.

Mitchell’s activism through the Faith and Freedom Coalition and his chairmanship of the anti-Proposal One campaign had given him name recognition among a new constituency. Moreover, his deployment of his own resources finally paid off. In a five-candidate primary, Mitchell topped the field — which included two opponents who had both served in the state senate and house — with 38%.

His dream of office finally achieved, Mitchell voted like the conservative capitalist he was. Rated 83% by the American Conservative Union, he was staunchly pro-life (National Right to Life Committee: 100%), pro-Second Amendment (National Rifle Association 92%), and pro-business (Americans for Prosperity 88%).

A strong supporter of former President Donald Trump’s agenda, Mitchell championed the American Care Act — Trump’s alternative to Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act that passed the House in 2017 but failed by one vote in the Senate.

He also became chairman of the School Choice Caucus and was a Member of the conservative House Republican Study Committee.

By 2019, however, Mitchell was clearly growing disenchanted with the political club he had worked so hard to enter. Trump’s public call for the four leftist Democrat U.S. representatives to “go back” to where they came from upset him tremendously. For days, the Michigan lawmaker attempted to see the president and get him to address his language and the resulting rancor.

The refusal of the White House staff to accommodate him — even after he asked Vice President Mike Pence for help — finally convinced Mitchell he had enough of politics. In July of 2019, he announced his retirement and explained he had enough of the “rhetoric and vitriol” in Washington.

Trump’s refusal to concede the 2020 election further upset Mitchell. In December, he told CNN’s Jake Tapper he was leaving the Republican Party and would serve out his term as an independent.

“Many predicted Paul Mitchell would run statewide, either for governor or U.S. Senator,” Bill Ballenger told us. “Instead, after only two terms in Congress, he quit Washington in frustration at what he discovered when he finally got into public office. There was no one like him in the history of Michigan politics.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for The Conservative Digest. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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