'Those Yoopers stick together,' as successor hires ex-senator
Lansing — Former Sen. Tom Casperson didn’t go far for his next job after term limits forced him out of office.
The Escanaba Republican is working as a top aide for his successor, Sen. Ed McBroom, a Vulcan Republican and fellow resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“Ed and I have been pretty close over the years, and we were good friends the whole time he served in the House,” Casperson said. “He just approached me and wanted to know if I’d come with him. I didn’t see a reason why not.”
McBroom served in the state House from 2010 through 2016 and was elected to the state Senate last fall, defeating Democrat Scott Dianda with 54.4 percent of the vote in the general election.
Hiring Casperson made sense because he “has a lot of invaluable experience and connections across the U.P.,” McBroom said. “And so I was like, ‘Are you willing to drop down to this?’ And he said, ‘absolutely,’ so it works out great for the both of us.”
The pair carpooled to Lansing last week, but Casperson is expected to split his time between the state Capitol and back in the sprawling 38th Senate District, which includes all but the eastern edge of the Upper Peninsula.
“What helps is when we go back to the district, I can go to one side of the district and he can go to another,” Casperson said, noting he plans to work as both a legislative and constituent relations aide.
Casperson planned to work in the U.P. this week and attend several meetings on McBroom’s behalf, but the former logging trucker spent time in Lansing last week and even testified before McBroom’s Senate Oversight Committee.
Casperson vouched for a 2018 law he sponsored that created business-friendly panels to oversee environmental rule-making and permitting processes. An executive order by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer proposed abolishing the panels, but the Senate on Thursday voted down her edict, finalizing the first rejection of its kind since 1977.
McBroom did not announce Casperson as an aide when inviting him to testify and said he assumed most observers already knew their working relationship.
“He wasn’t in there testifying as my employee," McBroom said. "He was in there testifying as the bill sponsor of the bills that the governor was modifying."
It’s not unusual for former lawmakers to work as legislative aides, but it may be unprecedented for a term-limited senator to immediately go to work for his old office, said Bill Ballenger, a former lawmaker and Michigan political historian.
“Those Yoopers stick together,” Ballenger joked.
Casperson ran for Congress in 2016, but taking the new job suggests he has run his last campaign, Ballenger said. “It’s an odd thing to do if you have any hope or expectation of running for political office again."
Casperson will earn a $55,000 salary in his new role, less than the $71,685 base pay for a state senator but more than any other aide in McBroom’s office.
Constituent Relations Director Jodi Clark will earn $35,500, Chief of Staff Kendra Everett will earn $43,000 and Legislative Director Paul Burns will earn $53,000, according to information provided by the Senate Business Office.
Casperson is battling cancer but said Monday he has made improvements since last year's diagnosis. He said he no longer has cancer in his bones but continues to take oral chemotherapy pills to fight cancer in his left lungs.
"Other than that, I feel really good," he said.
Casperson knows people across the Senate district and has valuable relationships with local government managers and city council members, said McBroom, a dairy farmer.
“They know somebody they can call. They’ve still got Tom’s number. He’s a friendly face. That helps my communities up here just as much as it helps me do a better job as a senator.”
McBroom has criticized Michigan’s strictest-in-the-nation term limits law and in 2015 sponsored three separate House resolutions for ballot proposals that would have asked voters to repeal the law and approve a more flexible replacement.
He is drafting new legislation this term that would again propose revisions to the 1992 term limits law that forced him out of the House but opened up the seat he now holds in the Senate.
“I think Tom was a great senator for the Upper Peninsula, and probably always will have been a better senator than I’ll ever be, but term limits don’t allow that to happen,” McBroom said.