Insider: Michigan legislator's farewell speech prompts laughter

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

State Sen. Coleman Young II rushed off the Senate floor Tuesday, closed the door to an adjoining meeting room and — assuming he was out of earshot — let loose a belly laugh that reverberated throughout the upper chamber.

The Detroit Democrat was attempting to stifle a response to state Sen. Patrick Colbeck, a Canton Township Republican who compared himself to Mother Theresa during a farewell speech.

State Sen. Coleman Young II

“I have done my level best to be a voice for those with noble pursuits,” said Colbeck, a tea party favorite who ran for governor this year but finished third in the GOP primary. “To be sure, I have had my share of detractors during my tenure. Believe it or not, Mother Teresa actually had a few detractors as well.” 

Colbeck used the comparison to introduce a Mother Theresa quote that he has mounted on the door of his home office. But his reference to the famous missionary prompted guffaws from several colleagues.

Sen. Patrick Colbeck says sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood should not cast his remarks as a broad dispersion of Muslims.

Young, who will also leave office at the end of the year, apologized to Colbeck on Wednesday in his own farewell speech.

“But c’mon man, you got to admit, that was hilarious,” Young said, telling Colbeck he would have been less surprised by a comparison to Ronald Reagan or Ted Cruz. “I think you deserve quote of the year.”

Young and Colbeck are two of the most colorful characters in the state Senate, which will be dramatically reshaped in coming months as 25 of 38 members will be forced out of office due to term limits.

“What I’ve learned here serving is that leadership is what compels people to do the right thing,” Young told his colleagues, adopting a more serious tone. “I’m humbled and blessed to count myself among you.”

On the House floor Tuesday and Wednesday, several representatives also offered their farewell thoughts amid laughter, tears and some parting shots.  Rep. Fred Durhal III, D-Detroit, spoke for roughly 40 minutes before House Speaker Tom Leonard asked him to wrap it up.

Stevens named a co-president

Incoming House Democrats elected Rep.-elect Haley Stevens on Wednesday as co-president of their freshman class, a spokesman said. 

She will serve as co-president of the 60-plus member class with Rep.-elect Colin Allred, who this month unseated longtime Texas Republican Rep. Pete Sessions. 

Stevens of Rochester Hills was elected this month to succeed retiring Republican Rep. Dave Trott of Birmingham. She defeated GOP businesswoman Lena Epstein in Michigan’s 11th District. 

Stevens, 35, served as chief of staff to the auto task force during the Obama administration. 

U.S. Reps.-elect Haley Stevens of Michigan and Colin Allred of Texas were elected co-presidents of the House Democrats' freshman class on Wednesday, November 28, 2018.

Republican US Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph also got a leadership role this week. 

He was re-elected Tuesday to the House Republican Steering Committee, which determines committee assignments.  

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting and Melissa Burke