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Posted on Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Republican State Rep. Rick Olson considers changing parties after redistricting puts re-election in doubt

By Tom Perkins

Freshman Rep. Rick Olson, R-York Township, confirmed rumors he is considering switching parties for the 2012 race for the Michigan House of Representatives 55th District.

The reason: Recent redistricting has left Olson in a heavily Democratic district in which a Republican is unlikely to win. He said switching to the Democratic Party would give him a better chance, though he said his philosophy and stances on issues haven’t changed.

“I don’t change philosophies like I change my underwear everyday,” Olson said. “I have an independent way of thinking. I dig down into the details and look at the nitty gritty.”


State Rep. Rick Olson, right, talks with Pittsfield Township resident Philip Kearney, a retired faculty member from the University of Michigan's School of Education, about the GOP's proposed cuts to education funding during an outing last March.

Ryan J. Stanton |

He said that way of thinking is what could appeal to voters in the new district, but he underscored that no decisions have been made and he is still talking with his supporters and friends before making a move.

“We’ll just have to see how things shape up,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out what and how to do things and no decision has been made other than an intention to run. I’ve got to talk to a lot of people.

“(Switching parties) is not something you ever want to do, but it’s an option that I need to think about in the district that I’ve been dealt."

Democrats believe Olson is vulnerable now that the redrawn district includes Augusta Township, York Township, Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor Township and part of the city of Ann Arbor. Before the redrawing the district included Pittsfield and York townships in Washtenaw County and several townships in Monroe County.

Two Democratic candidates — Adam Zemke and Bob Davidow — have announced their candidacy for the 55th District so far.

While Olson has been seen as a representative far to the right of the issues by many Democrats, he casts himself as an independent thinker who doesn’t always stick within the party ranks.

He cited his recent call for increased revenues to help fix Michigan’s roads as one example. He also said he isn’t in agreement with most Republicans on the question of what to do about Michigan’s auto no fault insurance system.

He said in both cases he carefully analyzed the issues and broke from traditional GOP thought.

“One of the things that Ann Arbor likes is people who can make good decisions and analyze issues, whatever party they are in,” Olson said. “I think those talents and energies would be appreciated. I look at things analytically and, yes, I come down on the Republican side most of the time because I think that’s the right way to go.

“But I’m also thinking independently on a whole lot of issues.”


Bob Davidow


Adam Zemke

Davidow said he has fundamental disagreements with Olson no matter what party Olson is in and said he doesn’t expect to alter his campaign if Olson does switch sides.

“I have no idea what sort of appeal he will have, especially in Ann Arbor, and I suspect some of his positions will not be popular in Ann Arbor,” Davidow said. “It will be interesting to see how voters react to this.”

Zemke questioned how Olson could switch parties based solely on redistricting.

“I believe in integrity and I think it would be disingenuous for Rep. Olson to consider switching party affiliation simply to save his job,” Zemke said. “If he’s going to switch, he should consider switching his philosophy, because his philosophy doesn’t represent the views of the constituents.”

He noted Olson voted to cut money for schools, voted against benefits for same-sex domestic partners and voted against clean air initiatives among other pro-Republican votes Olson recently cast.

“I think the voters in this district are smart enough to understand the people who are running for office and will pick the candidate who will best represent their view,” Zemke said.

Dennis Moore, who is an Olson supporter and director of the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus, also said a party switch would be "disingenuous."

He said he would rather see politicians work to “change the hearts and minds of the electorate” instead of switching labels.

“I know Rick Olson and he is a good man. I understand what he is doing, but I disagree,” Moore said.

He said he still agrees with the vast majority of Olson’s stances on issues and his philosophy but would never vote for a Democrat, even if the Democrat were sharing his own ideology.

“We cannot allow our own people to authorize power to the other side,” Moore said. “I think it’s a mistake, and our best idea is to educate and inform the electorate.”

Olson said he is only considering the switch and thinks his supporters are behind him no matter what he does.

“Those people who know me well, no matter what I do, they are not likely to be upset because they know how I think and when they ask questions, they get straight answers,” Olson said.



Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

One thing I certainly appreciate in Rick Olson is he is an honest man, a trait usually missing in our politicians. I also like the way he has encouraged feedback on Facebook, email, newspapers etc. Most politicians do not ask our opinion, at least not mine. I have shared my opinions with Rick some in agreement some not, and was treated with respect in each case. I didn't get the standard 'we are looking into that very aggressively' response, I got an answer right then or after time to review the subject. I don't like either party! I can't tell them apart very easily anymore. I don't like it when the party line steps in front of good solutions. I don't like that they can't balance the books, fire them all and get a new group, same rules! That hands across the aisle is usually crap, often a lost cause by the accepting hand. I think it's time for a new political party. One with leadership that sees the good in both the parties agendas, and recognizes a whole lot of greed in them both and rejects them. So give me an honest candidate, an ethical candidate, and one who not only listens but asks and informs us constantly of the processes.

Lac Court Orilles

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 10:20 p.m.

Rick Olson is a rubber stamp Republican who doesn't even think. He only claims to think. He defends his rubber stamp votes and lack of critical analysis by claiming to have "secret information" that NONE of his constituents have. Is there anyone out there who would like to take bets on how many times Olson will deviate from voting the party line this year? I would love a $75,000 a year job like Olson has that wouldn't require me to think or make any tough decisions.


Mon, Jan 30, 2012 : 12:14 p.m.

I'm not sure what contact you have had with Rick, but it seems little. I voiced my opinion that taking away the tax deduction for donations to C-3 organizations that were taking the pressure off of government by raising funds for health issues and local community needs was bad. He agreed, and said he was trying to convince the governor to reconsider. I've seen democrats bantering with him on FB, he did not block them. Most responses from other politicians has been from staff!

Lac Court Orilles

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

No matter how much you've changed Mr. Olson, you still have to pay for all the bad things you did to school children, teachers, police officers, firemen, and retirees.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 11:36 p.m.

I thought prostitution was illegal.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

Have you ever given any thought as to why politicians want to get reelected? They always frame it as though they are serving and enduring hardships to be in office. The proverbial wool over one's eyes seems to fit here.

Debra Adams

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 10:57 a.m.

Obviously, Mr. Olsen is confused.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:25 a.m.

His announcement at the Willow Run Tea Party was unequivical, he will run as a Democrat, he said. He has already informed the Republican majority leader of his decision but he told him that if the Republicans were still in the majority he would still caucus with the Republicans. If that is not a Republican in Democrat clothing I don't know what is. If the change of parties was genuine, he would do it now and begin voting with the Democrats not wait for the election.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:15 p.m.

Townie, clownfish and Armentrout are deserving of the reader votes they're getting: It's a GREAT relief to see that there are people who aren't duped by either party's - disingenuous! - twisting and distorting facts and issues. Let's also look at the irony: Rep. Olson is the victim of his own party's gerrymandering of districts for political gain. So now, typical Republican he is, he's going to dishonestly adopt the camouflage of a Democrat. Mark Twain said: The two parties constantly accuse each other of the most terrible traits and acts. BOTH are right. All you have to do is consider: the Democrats and Republicans distinguish from each other by claiming the other party is all wrong. This has been the case since the days of Jefferson and Adams. Okay - by now, we should have seen which party is "the best" and "most right" for America. BUT HAVE WE? No, instead we see ridiculous ideological thinking which always ends up going to one extreme or the other. The Democrats and Republicans are now both totally dependent of those who fund their elections. So neither party is deserving of anything but disbandment.

say it plain

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:55 p.m.

Ah, I love a headline that tells the whole story lol... And at once, it hardly seems 'news', no?! "Politician decides getting re-elected more important than anything like principles" lol. Not that I would diss someone for leaving the GOP, of course ;-)

Ellis Sams

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:50 p.m.

A clear demonstration of the Politician's Imperative: job security. Party, principle, policy, anything and everything will be sacrificed in the interest of holding office. "Forget everything I said and done in the past. The world is changing and I must change to better serve the public. You have my word on it."


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:55 p.m.

So basically he is saying he would rather fool voters into believing he follows their beliefs. He is saying he does not trust that voters will be able to distinguish his message without a D next to his name. Oh, which party was in charge of redistricting? It certainly had no D next to their name. It is better to be honest and lose than to be a lying scum and win.

George Houchens

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:37 p.m.

Interesting how Democrats use gerrymandering to remove a Republican from office, but when it happens to one of their own, they scream foul play.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 3:05 a.m.

Which is why we need non-partisan re-districting. Other states do it, we could too. We don't have to put up with the cycle of gerrymandering.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:16 p.m.

Funny how you can swap the words "Democrat" and "Republican" in your post and it's every bit as true.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:30 p.m.

I know Rick personally and, while I agree that changing parties for the sake of elections is certainly disingenuous, I support his courage in recognizing that he never was a "pure" fit with the Republicans in power. I also support him for his work in the post he has approached that job with energy and dedication ever since he got there. He brought a great deal of direct experience with governance going into the job, as well as the consequences of government action on the electorate. And I recognize him as a hardworking citizen on his days off. I tried to get him to change parties before he ran his primary two years ago! I see him as a Centerist in a field of "Lock-Step" politicians ON BOTH SIDES. This attempt is a tough challenge but that's the kind that Rick likes the best.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:20 p.m.

What a joke. I vote for an amendment would not allow for a representative to switch parties and run for office in the subsequent term. Its the same tactic that the Republicans tried in Wisconsin when they had all the recall elections.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

I think this is what you would call a trial balloon -- you put up the idea and watch it fail. He'll stay an R.

Long Time No See

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:58 p.m.

"I come down on the Republican side most of the time because I think that's the right way to go" Yes, clearly you should call yourself a Democrat, because that would be the most honest thing to do. We now can clearly see that honesty and integrity are more important to you than attempting to win elections through hypocrisy.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:02 p.m.

Marcia Higgins has successfuly done so. A successful turncoat; even though her husband was a GOP officeholder. So had Steve Rapundalo. If Rick Olson does this, he will never have my support again.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

Marcia Higgins? Is that the invisible woman from the 4th Ward? One of the god-like creatures too powerful and important to return calls from her constituents? Or to attend City Council meetings? How about supporting a mandate that once you miss a certain number of meetings, resignation is mandatory as the electorate is not being represented by it's elected official ? That would get MY vote.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:03 p.m.

Olson would be like senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska. Democrat in name only. The best thing that happened to the Dems was Nelson deciding to retire. If the t-party has backed OLson then a vote for Olson as a Democrat would be a vote for t-party radicalism.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:47 p.m.

A tiger can't hide his stripes and pretend to be a lion. Rick O is a teacher/ union/ worker / common man hater and won't get one democratic vote...and by the way- he's gonna lose no matter what...the sheeple of Mi. have woken up to the fact that republican union breaking pro biz policies are not good for our state.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:30 p.m.

@rulieg - True, but while Granholm was in office, so was Bush II. Michigan's economy suffered by being a small part of the larger US economy. To decide whether it was Democratic policies that caused Michigan's woes, you should look at all 50 states and see whether those with Republican governors did better, worse, or the same as those with Democratic governors during the Bush Administration.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

oh really? Michigan doesn't want "Republican union-breaking pro-biz policies"? let me think for a minute: who was governor for the past 8 years? whose policies are we seeing the result of? hint: Granholm was a Democrat.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:39 p.m.

This is a joke right? Although, I don't see much difference between the two parties anyway. That is why I am an independent voter.

David Cahill

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:27 p.m.

Olson a Democrat? Hahahaaaa! He can't run away from his Republican record. It's silly for him to even try.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:40 p.m.

i know, right? those who actually look at what the voting record is will see past this nonsense.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

We so desperately need non-partisan re-districting.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 3 p.m.

I'll lose, I'll lose .... I know, I'll change parties. Hypocrite.

just a voice

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

this guy is a joke. just pathetic

Chase Ingersoll

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

Such a high percentage of the voters are ignorant or disingenuous. They complain about deficits that will burden their grandchildren, but they vote for the representative that promises to spend more borrowed money. They complain about high prices and taxes, but are perfectly happy about taxes, as long as it is their neighbors residence, salary or business that is paying the higher taxes. They complain about the curtailment of personal liberty to abort their child, carry a handgun, or to buy a joint, even while they want the public to pay for their "private" abortion, and those who want to carry guns don't defend those who want to buy a joint for use in the privacy of their own home. Prediction: more chaos and conflict of contravening values and laws. Chase Ingersoll


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:39 p.m.

ironic you say this after your own failed election attempt.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:10 p.m.

Is he a real Republican? "his philosophy and stances on issues haven't changed" Republican- lower taxes, reduce government, get out of the way of businesses Democrat-raise taxes, larger government, put more rules on companies and regulate the industry How can his stance on the issues not change?


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

Republicans lower taxes? They voted against the tax decrease for the middle class but lost. They have had more social issues on their agenda than creating jobs. What do you call voter suppression other than big gov intrusion? Getting out of the way of big business caused the financial mess this country has been reeling from.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:24 p.m.

Rino- calls him or herself a Republican, but does not support the party line. Dino- calls him or herself a Democrat, but does not support the party line. It isn't that hard to figure out how his stance won't change.

John Spelling

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

"I believe in integrity and I think it would be disingenuous for Rep. Olson to consider switching party affiliation simply to save his job, Zemke said." If you're looking in the dictionary for "disingenuous", in this context, you'll find "see Stephen Rapundalo". Though it was slightly different in Rap's case as instead of saving it was to get a job. Maybe that required a bit less integrity?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Just goes to show you that people don't vote on the issues they vote on the party. Pretty soon we'll have the sheep party who blindly follows the leader..........


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:21 p.m.

Pretty soon?

Vivienne Armentrout

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

This would be unfortunate and opportunistic. Mr. Olson clearly fits within the Republican mindset. His recent statement on roads supported a change in the way they are financed, but he stated clearly that he was for no net increase in revenue. Translation: no more taxes, even if the names of the old ones are changed. This despite his recognition that transportation funding in Michigan is severely deficient.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

"but would never vote for a Democrat, even if the Democrat were sharing his own ideology."- that comment is just sad, it sums up one thing wrong with our politics today. Rep Olsons switch would be rank politics also. One switches parties because one disagrees or agrees with a Party, not because it may make it easier to get elected.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

"One switches parties because one disagrees or agrees with a Party, not because it may make it easier to get elected." PEOPLE act like that. POLITICIANS, on the other hand, will do a lot more than just switch parties if it increases their chances of getting elected.

Basic Bob

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Redistricting works - thanks to a general failure of voters to think for themselves. This just shows how many people in our educated community vote straight ticket instead of carefully considering their vote. All they see is the (D) on the left, forget the name or qualifications, political baggage, hidden (?) agendas, and tie-ins with special interest groups.

Basic Bob

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 4:09 a.m.

@Forever27, I agree completely, but they don't brag quite as much about their brains.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

you don't think straight ticket voting happens in the "Real America" of rural towns? Just replace the D with an R and it's the opposite side of the same coin.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 12:26 p.m.

See the comment of the TP activist above, or below. Straight ticket voting is not limited to the A2 region.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

He'd be better off becoming an independent, and not just relabeling himself.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:18 p.m.

We'd be better off if he - and every politician like him - retired.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:38 a.m.

Just another lockstep Republican and now he's had a change of heart and is a 'Democrat'. What a joke. Get a real job; you didn't get my vote as a Republican and you certainly won't get it as a fake Democrat.

Alan Goldsmith

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

"The reason: Recent redistricting has left Olson in a heavily Democratic district in which a Republican is unlikely to win. He said switching to the Democratic Party would give him a better chance, though he said his philosophy and stances on issues haven't changed." Mr. Olson, you'd fit right in with the Ann Arbor Democratic Party reps on City Council. The Mayor and a half dozen other members of Council are as far away from the core values of the Democratic Party as you can be and still have a pulse.