Candice Surrenders Chairmanship to Run Locally
June 24, 2016
Nothing about Candice Miller’s slow exit from Congress could be considered typical. She shocked Michigan’s political world by announcing her retirement in March 2015, 21 months before her seventh term in the House was set to expire. She eventually shunned calls for her to run for governor, despite sentiments expressed throughout GOP political circles. She easily could have snagged a cushy lobbying job within the Washington Beltway.
But the Macomb County Republican’s biggest surprise for the party establishment came this past March when the former Michigan secretary of state announced that she had set her sights on winning election to a Macomb County office – for county Drain Commissioner, for God’s sakes. That is a step down that is nearly unprecedented among the recent history of the congressional revolving door.
Yet, Miller left a very big, mysterious hint months ago that her unorthodox plans did not include a seamless transition to the private sector, as she had suggested they might several times earlier this year. In February, Miller very quietly decided to step down from a congressional committee chairmanship. That never happens. Chairmanships are highly coveted on Capitol Hill to the point that a chair that is urged to step aside because of a glaring controversy practically has to have the gavel pried from his or her hands by the House speaker.
But Miller, nearly a year before her time on Capitol Hill expires, abruptly surrendered her position as chair of the House Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. As Capitol Hill subcommittees go, that’s a pretty big one at a time when border security and the Donald Trump wall are constantly in the media spotlight, along with unending concerns about deadly terrorists sneaking into the country. She had run the subcommittee for more than five years.
“It was totally my idea. I’ve got a lot going on. I just felt that, for a smooth transition, which would take place in January anyway, that this would be very beneficial,” Miller said. She said she surrendered the post because she had numerous items on her plate, including plans to mount an aggressive, expensive campaign against an entrenched incumbent public works commissioner (as the Macomb County drain commissioner is labeled) back in her Michigan district.
She continues serving as chair of the relatively obscure House Committee on Administration, and as vice chair of the Homeland Security Committee. The lawmaker admits that her decision was viewed as more than a bit unusual when presented to Rep. Mike McCaul (R-Calif.), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee. The subcommittee is a subgroup of the Homeland Security panel. McCaul agreed to the proposed switch, with subcommittee member Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) taking over the gavel.
Yet, Miller’s transition certainly took place in an odd manner. No press releases were issued. The official websites for Miller and McSally never mentioned the changeover. An item had been posted on the Homeland Security Committee website on February 16th, but it went largely unnoticed. Miller kept the subcommittee chairmanship distinction on her official congressional letterhead until mid-April.
For Miller, the subcommittee activities seemed to represent the aspect of her congressional duties that she enjoyed the most. In fact, the congresswoman had held several high-level subcommittee hearings that were related to the government’s failed anti-terrorism activities, including some botched attempts to adhere to the warnings issued in 2004 by the 9/11 Commission report. Miller was chosen for the post because her district is situated on the northern border with Canada, on the Great Lakes, and it is home to the third-busiest border crossing in the U.S. – the Bluewater Bridge in Port Huron.
McSally represents a district that abuts the Southern Border with Mexico and features Tucson as its population center. But it’s a dusty desert area in a landlocked state – definitely not a hub of maritime activities. A member of Congress for 3 ½ years, McSally became fast friends with Miller as they both placed a major priority on blocking an Air Force plan to retire the aging fleet of A-10 military aircraft. McSally, a former Air Force colonel who flew A-10s, is trying to preserve the A-10 jets stationed in Arizona. Miller is hoping to preserve the A-10s stationed at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township, located nearly a stone’s throw from the home she shares with her husband, Don, a former Selfridge base commander.
Miller said she is thrilled that McSally succeeded her in the subcommittee chair’s seat, adding that she views the Arizona lawmaker as a future senator. “I want to help her,” Miller said. “She’s a perfect fit.”
A freelance writer from Macomb County, was the political reporter at The Macomb Daily for nearly 30 years. At the Daily he earned 50 journalism awards and in 2014 he was named by Politico as one of the “Media Stars” in seven political battleground states. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.