In Michigan, the Republican nomination for Senate creates quite a controversy. Pete Hoekstra, who spent eighteen years in Congress and produced this Super Bowl advertisement, is the perceived favorite.  However, a conservative activist, Clark Durant, provides competition for Hoekstra. Incumbent Senator, Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), awaits a challenger, so a fed-up public needs to determine differences between the candidates and discern which one is the true conservative fit for the job.

As a long-time advocate of educational improvement in practice, Durant co-founded Detroit’s Cornerstone Schools. The private-independent and charter system experiment has had great success, opening doors for more than 1,400 inner-city students a year. Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press editorial page editor, applauded the candidate for his effective work: “The charter movement, the number of independent schools cropping up around the city — it all really started with Durant and Cornerstone” (Detroit Free Press, 8/25/11).

Detroiters involved in the education reform movement – including the plethora of thankful families – are well aware of Durant and his myriad contributions to moving the Motor City forward. For the past two decades, 95% of its students have graduated, compared to a worst-in-the-nation 25% rate for Detroit Public Schools. Mayor Dave Bing had nothing but praise for the alternative academic start-up, stating that “When a child attends Cornerstone Schools they are entering a learning community that brings together children, parents, teachers and partners all working toward a single goal — the success of our children.”

Amongst a long list of accomplishments, Durant served as Vice President of Hillsdale College where he started Imprimis: a conservative intellectual publication with over two million subscribers. From 1995-99, upon state-wide election, he served as President of the Michigan Board of Education. Durant has also sat on educational boards for University of Detroit Jesuit (2001-10) and the Skillman Foundation’s Excellent Schools Detroit initiative.

Any doubt surrounding Durant’s fundraising abilities can be put to rest. Third-quarter reports confirm the campaign raised an impressive $750,000 in a span of three weeks. To boot, a few years back, Durant co-hosted The Turning Point Invitational with golf legend Arnold Palmer. The highly successful event brought in over $6 million for charitable organizations like Cornerstone Schools. Given Hoekstra’s financial woes in his failed 2010 gubernatorial bid, Durant is in prime position to make the leap to front-runner standing.

Of course key votes cannot be cast, necessary funds cannot be collected, and elections cannot be won without a top campaign team. Accordingly, Durant has tapped political guru Andrew Anuzis, RNC Committeeman Saul Anuzis’ brother, as his campaign director. The brothers have a long history of Republican political success in the Great Lakes State.

It is time Michiganders are represented by an individual with a proven track record of making a difference. A pair of Washington insiders – Stabenow, whose approval numbers remain dangerously low and are steadily sinking, and the aforementioned Hoekstra – symbolizes all that is wrong with status quo politics. As Tea Party rallies and the mid-term cycle made crystal clear, the current climate filled with a clarion call for real change suits the conservative underdog well. Clark Durant is the right man for the job.

Nick Kowalski :: Michigan State University :: East Lansing, Michigan :: @NKowalski