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Flipper Peters for Senate

Gary PetersHe’s a moderate. He marched with radical Occupy Detroit. He’s for the middle class. He’s for expensive cap-and-trade energy policy. He supports small business. He supports Obamacare, the scourge of small business.

Would the real Gary Peters please stand up?

As expected the Detroit congressman this week announced his candidacy to replace retiring Senator Carl Levin – and just as predictably, Peters and his Michigan media chorus cast him as an independent centrist.

“I’ve always believed that the things middle class families struggle with around their kitchen tables should define my work in Washington,” he said launching a campaign all but party pre-ordained to result in his nomination. “Set politics and party aside: if it’s not right for Michigan’s small businesses and middle class, it’s never been right with me. I think that kind of independent approach is exactly what Michigan needs.”

But Peters is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. He voted in lockstep with Speaker Pelosi’s agenda when Democrats controlled the House. Pro-global warming regulation. Pro-stimulus. Pro-Obamacare. Only when the Tea Party tsunami threatened his seat in 2010 did Peters try to row to America’s political mainstream by suddenly criticizing Obama’s second, $50 billion stimulus and supporting the Bush tax cuts.

Peters temporary flirtation with those “centrist” issues is instructive.

As soon as he secured his seat in 2010, he threw these centrist positions overboard – embracing Obama’s renewed calls for more spending (never mind $50 billion, now Peters supported Obama’s $450 billion in new spending) and overturning the Bush tax cuts. If Mitt Romney was a flip-flopper, then Peters is a flip-flop black belt.

“Peters has always presented himself as a reasonable business candidate, even as he votes Left,” says Michigan political analyst Bill Ballenger. “It’s a total sham.”

Oakland County Executive Brooks Patterson, a GOPer with a true independent streak, knows a faker when he sees one. “He’s a phony,” Patterson tells The Detroit News.

There is one conviction that trumps Peters left-wing politics – and that is winning. His 2010 performance is evidence of that. But so is a nasty streak that produced the state’s ugliest Congressional campaign – tagging tea partiers with the crude sex term “tea-baggers”  and accusing his opponent of business malfeasance, a charge so low it provoked a slander suit.

After the elimination of his Oakland County 9th district forced him into a Detroit-heavy, left-leaning 14th, the “centrist” was the only Metro Detroit representative to march with the radical Occupy Detroit. The millionaire former Merrill Lynch financial advisor tried to blend in wearing a “We are the 99 Percent” button. The 99 Percenter starts his Senate run with a rich war chest – a result of his stature on the House Finance Committee where he is a member of the elite “New Democrat” fundraising club, raking in dough as gatekeeper for House financial reform legislation.

Gary Peters, pro-small business centrist? Watch his flips, not his lips.

Henry Payne
Henry Payne is the auto critic for The Detroit News. A 25-year newspaper veteran, Payne is also a Pulitzer Prize-nominated cartoonist with United Feature Syndicate, a former columnist and editorial writer for The News, and a contributor to The Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and other publications. His auto reviews appear every Thursday in the Drive section.