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Democrats Protest Engler Via McCain

February 21, 2000

DETROIT (AP) _ Autoworker Sheila McCaulley says there’s no question of her politics: ``I am a Democrat _ a Democrat all the way.″ But when the polls open Tuesday for Michigan’s GOP presidential primary, McCaulley will be there.

She is casting her vote for John McCain _ not because she likes McCain, but because she despises Michigan Gov. John Engler, an ardent and highly visible backer of George W. Bush in the presidential race.

``If it will send a message to Engler to vote for McCain, I will,″ McCaulley said.

Her views of Engler are shared by many in mostly black, mostly Democratic Detroit, where the Republican governor’s decision to turn control of the public schools over to a board appointed by the mayor drew widespread wrath.

``He just took over our school board. We got no say at all,″ said the 46-year-old McCaulley, who is black.

Detroit residents also object to Engler’s decisions to merge the Detroit Recorder’s Court into the Wayne County courts and to sign a bill doing away with requirement that city employees live in the city.

``As a lifetime Detroiter, I feel real disrespected at this point,″ said Carol Banks, 39, as she handed out leaflets urging an anti-Engler vote for McCain. ``I think the only way we’re going to send a message is to let him know that our votes do count.″

Polls show McCain and Bush locked in a close race in Michigan, with Bush doing better among Michigan Republicans and McCain pulling in support from independents and Democrats. The Michigan GOP primary is open to all voters, regardless of party.

Democratic turnout for the Republican primary is expected to be higher than usual. Still, pollsters such as Ed Sarpolus of Lansing-based EPIC/MRA say most of those choosing McCain are genuine supporters, not those trying to make a point with Engler.

Detroiter Hyland Gear, a retired IBM manager who shares a military background with McCain, truly likes the Arizona senator.

``I vote for the person I think is the best for the job, and I think McCain is the best for the job,″ said Gear, who has voted only twice before for a Republican.

Gear said he served a combined 14 years in the Army and Air Force and admires McCain for what he went through as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

``It shows the kind of character this guy has,″ said Gear, 67.

But Detroit Democratic state Rep. Lamar Lemmons III, helping to lead the anti-Engler, pro-McCain movement in Detroit, made clear his position as he took the campaign to several Detroit churches on Sunday.

``Should he get it, we’re not going to be with John McCain in the fall,″ Lemmons said at the Second Canaan Missionary Baptist Church. ``We’re going to be with Bill Bradley or Al Gore or whoever the Democratic nominee is,″ Lemmons said to choruses of ``that’s right″ from the congregation.

The Rev. Bill McCullum, pastor at Bride of Christ church, said the strategy was necessary ``to show the governor we are completely dissatisfied with his lack of support for southeast Michigan.″

``If Engler had not been such a bad governor, then I don’t think this would be going on at the grassroots level,″ he said.

Peter DeMarco, spokesman for McCain’s Michigan campaign, skirted the question of whether McCain welcomes the votes of Democrats who have no intention of backing him in the fall.

``We’re happy to have votes from all voters in Michigan, be they Republican, Democratic, independent, Libertarian, vegetarian,″ DeMarco said.

Engler has used the Democrats’ pro-McCain strategy as a wakeup call to Republicans to get out and vote.

``Your help is urgently needed because some of Al Gore’s leading supporters here in Michigan ... plan to interfere with our February 22 primary,″ Engler wrote recently to Bush supporters.

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