Candidate drops out of state rep race

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published January 27, 2016

 John Fleming

John Fleming

Photo provided by John Fleming

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MACOMB COUNTY — John Fleming, 27, of Fraser, has dropped out of contention for a Michigan House of Representatives seat in District 31.

In a “very difficult” decision that was made Jan. 16, Fleming said he’s decided to pursue a career opportunity at a law firm. He passed the bar exam last year.

He said he was first approached a couple of days before Christmas and then took the holiday period to consider his options. After sitting with the firm’s partners shortly after New Year’s, he became immediately drawn to the work and the people, as well as the potential growth and opportunity.

“It was just a career opportunity that I couldn’t pass up,” Fleming said. “The time commitment made it impossible for me to fully dedicate the time to a campaign that it deserved.

“Being a public servant will always be an option and will always be available for me, and at this stage in my life I wanted to get some substantive legal experience.”

Fleming, who initially threw his hat into the ring on Sept. 14, said his decision to forego the chance to run for state representative was influenced by numerous factors. One of them was term limits, so even if he was elected and served the district for a number of years, he would eventually have to leave in his mid-’30s and find a way to support himself financially.

Recently achieving a law degree, coupled with the prospect of driving to Lansing three times per week, cemented his long-term outlook.

State Rep. Marilyn Lane, who currently represents the district — which incorporates Fraser, Clinton Township and Mount Clemens — will leave her position Jan. 1, 2017, due to term limits.

Fleming worked for nearly five years as Lane’s legislative aid in Lansing, learning the inner workings of the government.

“Everyone is supportive and they get it,” Fleming said. “Marilyn and I are close friends and worked together for a long time. ... I was afraid that I would disappoint (my supporters), but they all understand. People understand the need to build a career outside of the political circle.”

Fleming was going toe to toe with current Clinton Township Treasurer Bill Sowerby, who joined the race Dec. 3. Fleming said he called his supporters prior to phoning Sowerby, adding that he would be happy to support the treasurer in his efforts and would work on his behalf.

“I took John Fleming as a very serious candidate when he was in the race,” Sowerby said. “Now that he’s out of the race, it allows for a little bit of breathing room. But the filing isn’t completely done yet, so anyone can enter into the race.

“I’m still actively campaigning and will be throughout the year. There’s new people to meet, new voters to meet, new issues to address.”

Sowerby, whose main form of voter contact takes place in the door-to-door format, said voters have a “mixed feeling” about his own candidacy.

“They are sad to see me leave my position as treasurer because they’ve felt I’ve done a very good job at it — this is what they say,” he said. “As they say, this is about us and taking our message to Lansing and fixing the problems in Lansing. They are excited that our community of Clinton Township, Mount Clemens and Fraser will have a strong voice both from them and from me.”

While not discussing any new potential challengers and focusing on his own campaign, Sowerby said his goal remains to continue to reach out to citizens and get them excited for prospective issues he could address in Lansing — which, he said, is broken and needs a fix.

Fleming, meanwhile, said he won’t be going away anytime soon.

“I will stay active and involved and will pursue public life in the future,” Fleming said.

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