The Redford Township Democrat epitomizes everything we need in a legislator - he's brilliant, pensive, ruthlessly pragmatic and honest to a fault (even with the press). He plays well with others, a rarity in the ego-sodden Capitol.
For most of last year, I blasted leaders for their ineptitude and crass politicking in solving a $2 billion budget deficit. No one was without fault (the media included for our sometimes shallow reporting) and I once christened Dillon the Cowardly Lion for his role in negotiations last summer.
But even with only two years of legislative experience under his belt, the speaker appeared to be the only grown-up at the table, constantly trying to lower the temperature of high-octane flare-ups between Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop, R-Rochester.
Leaders on both sides of the aisle credit Dillon for the bipartisan deal that avoided a long, painful government shutdown. The price was higher income and business taxes and budget cuts.
"I'd do it again tomorrow," Dillon told me this week.
But the anti-tax fanatics want their pound of flesh.
So they're coming for Andy Dillon, the capitalist turned conservative Democratic rep, whose pro-life, pro-growth views haven't endeared him to many in his own party. He gets even less love from liberal blogs, which haven't exactly leapt to defend him against recall, too busy panting every time Granholm or Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer burp.
Recalls almost always are a rash, partisan-soiled scare tactic. They should be reserved for those who commit gross negligence or criminal acts and refuse to step down. (Yes, Kwame Kilpatrick, that means you).
In reality, recalls are wielded as a billy club to batter lawmakers who make tough decisions. My advice? If you loathe Dillon, forget about a costly August recall. Grow up and vote him out in November.
Last year, elfin ringleader Leon Drolet declared there would be recalls by the dozens. But his right-hand woman, Rose Bogaert, now admits the Michigan Taxpayer Alliance doesn't have the money or manpower. So Dillon is the No. 1 target.
Drolet, a former GOP lawmaker, contends a sitting speaker of the house has never been recalled. "We're ready to make history!" he bloviates.
Shy and retiring, the man who drives around Michigan with a mammoth foam pig named Mr. Perks surely wouldn't be trying to ride this circus to a national job with anti-tax guru Grover Norquist (who's on his board) or a congressional seat.
I asked Drolet if he really believes Dillon spends every waking moment plotting to raise taxes again.
"It doesn't matter if I think he'll rape someone again," he told me breezily. "He has to be held accountable for the rape he did commit."
Now I like Leon, always armed with a comeback and wicked sense of humor. But he didn't back away from his incendiary statement, maintaining Dillon committed "an economic crime."
He also insisted "Dillon's thugs" are harassing his paid signature-gatherers, calling it a "friggin' war zone." When I asked if there were black helicopters hovering, the anti-tax man, for once, didn't laugh.
Perhaps more bizarrely, he told me he'd rather deal with far-out lefties in the Legislature because they'd compromise more, whereas Dillon "has to vote for every piece of the liberal agenda."
Look, Drolet was a professional flame-thrower in the House; his goal was never to govern. That's the real difference between he and Dillon, who as a freshman in the minority got the innovative $2 billion 21st Century Jobs Fund passed.
That's why GOP former House Speaker Rick Johnson is incensed over Dillon's recall and is defending him. "I voted for tax increases several times," Johnson scoffed. "Where were the zealots then? It was never an issue."
Bishop, a tried and true conservative, has offered to help in any way he can, telling me his relationship with Dillon was "one of the few positive things to come out of last year."
And the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, which spent all of 2007 screaming bloody murder about a tax hike, is fighting Dillon's recall.
It's heartening to see such an outbreak of common sense. But if the recall does go on the ballot - Drolet has until May 1 to collect about 10,000 signatures - Dillon's probably toast, if history's any guide.
The speaker calls the recall a "major irritation" at a time when he's working on alternative energy legislation and fiscal 2009 budgets.
After last year's fiscal fiasco ("All the stupid machinations were an embarrassment," he sighs) Dillon briefly considered calling it quits. The Notre Dame-trained lawyer who's turned around a string of businesses could return to a blockbuster career in the private sector.
But the speaker is determined to stay put for one simple reason: "The state needs help right now."
That's the definition of a leader. Now's not the time to lose one in Lansing.