Trott's resume cuts 2 ways in Congress race

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News

One thing has both helped and haunted Dave Trott in his effort to keep Michigan's 11th Congressional District seat in Republican hands: his resume.

The Birmingham lawyer and GOP fundraiser has trumpeted that he has created 1,800 jobs in Metro Detroit — without identifying his line of business. But critics have labeled him the "foreclosure king" because his former businesses included Attorneys Title Agency, a title insurance company with 40 offices in four states, and technology companies that have developed software for processing foreclosure paperwork and work flow management for lawyers.

The background has not prevented Trott from being favored in the GOP-leaning district over Bobby McKenzie, a former U.S. State Department counter-terrorism adviser, and Republican U.S. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio of Milford, who lost the primary to Trott by 33 percentage points but is mounting a write-in bid. The district covers parts of Wayne and Oakland counties.

McKenzie's camp is trying to close the gap with an ad rolled out Wednesday that re-enacts the 2011 foreclosure of then-101-year-old Texana Hollis of southwest Detroit. In the ad, a terrified elderly woman is carried out of her home in a wheelchair and left on the street while a voiceover says: "Foreclosure King Trott: He's caused too much misery to let him represent us in Congress."

Later that same day, a rally of "Trott survivors" gathered in Birmingham where they held a "street trial" over the attorney's foreclosure history.

"No one wants to foreclose," Trott's campaign said in a statement responding to the ad. "The law firm was following instructions to foreclose and evict issued by the federal government ... and the eviction was executed by other parties, not the law firm. This ad does not tell all the facts."

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development foreclosed on the house because one of the woman's sons failed to pay $7,000 in property taxes to keep a reverse mortgage taken in 2002, despite months of warnings. After the eviction that received nationwide publicity, the federal agency paid the taxes and let Hollis and two sons back into the house.

In August, less than two weeks after winning the GOP primary, Trott started selling his stake in Trott & Trott PC, the law firm founded by his father. As the campaign enters its final days, Trott sidestepped a question about his foreclosure work and instead focused on his role as a job creator.

"I have started and grown businesses here and helped create and save 1,800 jobs right here in southeast Michigan," Trott said in a response to questions. "As a job creator, I've had to balance budgets, take risks on investments and carry the responsibility of making sure payroll is met every two weeks so my employees could take care of their families — something my opponent has never done."

Bentivolio back as write-in

The campaign took a twist when Bentivolio filed for a write-in campaign that he says is aimed at getting disaffected GOP voters to the polls to back U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land.

Trott's lopsided primary victory also seems to be a gnawing factor. Bentivolio has issued a 12-page newsletter with a crossword puzzle that asked questions about Trott as clues. They included this one for 9 Across: "MAJOR business organization that supports amnesty for illegal aliens and endorsed David Trott."

By contrast, McKenzie touts his experience in foreign affairs and security issues, including time spent with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of State focusing on North Africa and the Middle East. He's also worked with the Booz Allen Hamilton consulting firm.

It's a background McKenzie said makes him suited to work on some of the most important issues facing the nation, such as the emergence of the Islamic State and the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.

"Other members (of Congress) look to those with the expertise on certain topics," he said. "There are very few people in Congress who can lead on these issues like I do."

But that experience outside of Michigan has been a target for Trott.

"My opponent has barely ever lived here and moved back to Michigan just to run for Congress," Trott said. "He has been absent from the state for more than a decade and never lived in the district."

Living in the district is not a requirement for running for Congress.

Economy a high priority

Trott and McKenzie both list economic issues as priorities. For McKenzie, improving the nation's financial prospects means giving tax relief to small businesses and eliminating tax exemptions for larger corporations that send U.S. jobs overseas.

Trott's approach includes "cutting the (federal) red tape, simplifying the tax code and cutting wasteful spending."

There was a brief controversy in September when video footage surfaced of Trott saying at a July forum that he would shut down two government agencies to free up more revenue for the ailing federal Highway Trust Fund.

"What we need to do is take money from some other parts of the federal government and redirect it to America's infrastructure because it's in bad shape," Trott said in the video. "I've been doing a lot of talking with voters, and they want specifics. Well, here's some specifics on where the money could come from. We need to ... shut down the Department of Education and the Department of Energy."

Trott's campaign said he misspoke and meant that those federal agencies should be downsized — not shut down — because of ineffective and redundant programs, and the savings redirected to infrastructure repairs.

McKenzie's prospects of winning appear to rely on the $139,0645 in cash he had Oct. 15 after raising $708,138 overall. A national Democratic group pulled previously scheduled ad time in Metro Detroit.

While Bentivolio had $11,726 left for his campaign after raising $737,229, Trott had $886,453 to spend Oct. 15 after raising $4.65 million for the overall campaign — including $3.4 million of his own money. He has regularly had commercials on television.

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About candidates

Dave Trott

Age: 54

Hometown: Birmingham

Experience: Longtime attorney with former businesses in title insurance and foreclosure processing; major Republican Party fundraiser

Bobby McKenzie

Age: 40

Hometown: Canton Township

Experience: Former State Department counter-terrorism senior adviser; job with Central Intelligence Agency