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L. Brooks Patterson Looks Ahead: 'The County is Changing'

The Oakland County executive proved he's a stand-up guy during an Election Night appearance in Royal Oak.

As Democrats celebrated election victories Tuesday in Michigan and across the country, the mood at the Emagine Royal Oak theater complex, where more than 200 Oakland County Republicans gathered, was a mixed bag.

That is, until L. Brooks Patterson, 73, changed the energy of room. 

“He gave some remarks and then he told us he had a surprise for us – and then he stood up on his own,” said former Royal Oak Mayor Dennis Cowan. “Everyone burst into applause.” 

Patterson, elected to his sixth term as Oakland County Executive on Nov. 6, was injured in a crash in August that left him hospitalized at McLaren Oakland Hospital in Pontiac for five weeks after suffering almost a dozen broken bones. He returned to work in October using a wheelchair and 50 pounds thinner.

“He’s our political leader,” said Cowan. “Everyone was happy to see him. For a lot of people, it was the first time they had seen him since his accident. I think he was feeding off our energy and we were feeding off of his.” 

The county executive agreed.

“There was a lot of happiness in the room,” said Patterson, who is going through physical therapy. “I am re-teaching myself how to stand on my own again and walk.”

County demographics are changing

For Patterson, the joy of spending 90 minutes with supporters was mixed with disappointment after Republicans lost a couple of county seats. and Jim Nash, also a Democrat, replaces John McCulloch as Oakland County Water Commissioner.

“The county is changing. It used to be a safe Republican stronghold, but it won't be for much longer,” Patterson said. “I don’t mind people moving to Oakland County from Wayne County, but they are bringing their politics with them!" 

Unofficial Oakland County election results show 53.41 percent of voters cast a straight party vote for Democrats on Election Day and 45.27 percent did the same for Republicans.

Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney’s loss was also a sting for county Republicans. Had he won, Romney would not only have been the first president born in Michigan (Gerald Ford was born in Nebraska), but the first to be raised in Oakland County. 

“I think he would have made a good president, but we will never know,” Patterson said.

President Barack Obama got 53.40 percent of the vote in Oakland County to Romney’s 45.37 percent.

New surprises ahead

Now that voters have re-elected Patterson, the county executive may have more surprises in store for Oakland County residents.

When Patterson physically returned to work in October, he held a press conference with his daughter Mary Warner, 36. Like her father, Warner is witty and has a gift for public speaking. Talking off the cuff to the media about her father’s accomplishments, she told reporters she believes there is a reason her father survived the crash.

There is something else he needs to do, she said.

“I do have a couple of programs floating around in my head,” Patterson said, though he did not elaborate. “My primary focus will be to get the economy back on its feet.”

Patterson said he is proud of Oakland County and the quality of life its residents enjoy. And, he’s proud of Warner, too.

“I tell her she has a future in politics if she wants it,” he said.

Erin November 12, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Glad to see Brooks up and around - I'm sure it's been a tough rehab. And Congrats to him on his win. I am also happy to hear him acknowledge that Oakland County is changing, and no longer just a given as a Republican stronghold on local, state and national races. However, I think he needs to be careful about saying things like: “I don’t mind people moving to Oakland County from Wayne County, but they are bringing their politics with them!". It avoids the reality of what's happening - particularly on the national party level. The reality is that the national party has increasingly become misaligned with the populice in general, as well as with party loyalists (the trajectory really started with W/Cheney, but greatly accelerated lurching off the rails in the last 2 years). The reality is that long time Oakland residents - Republicans included - are seeing a national party and brand that is unrecognizable from past decades; defending their tenets with words, and then doing the EXACT opposite. A party that decided - at a time of our "economic 9/11" - that PARTY was more important than COUNTRY, and obstruction was literally THE strategy, while the country languished - I am still stunned. The reality is - particularly with women/moms I know - saw their husbands put up Romney signs (sometimes two!), and then quietly told me there was NO way they were voting for him. Congrats again Brooks. Looking forward to getting back to work - and back to reality.
T. Scott Galloway November 12, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Did Brooks give any basis for his belief that Oakland is becoming a Democratic County because of an influx of Wayne County residents relocating here? Did he say that these new voters came in on the bus? Perhaps his comment was just Republican "humor" but it certainly seems to reference disputes of years ago rather than looking toward a new reality in our County.
Erin November 12, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Perhaps Megan Kelly of Fox News said it best (in discussion with Karl Rove): "Is this REAL data, or is this math that Republicans tell themselves to make them feel better?"
jthall November 13, 2012 at 02:21 AM
I voted for Howley because he promised to wear his seatbelt, and not speak in "code" when referring to our new residents and neighbors.
Haulin T Male November 25, 2012 at 08:29 AM
Erin, I guess they found out,they tried that new math, and lost, As far as telling any one who you voted for, just torpedoes all the effort to vote in privacy, jthall, all you did was wasted your vote. my ballot did not ask why are you voting this way........ oh well

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