That doesn’t mean he’s done with public service, or that he has anything left to prove. He‘s sixty-five now, and spent four years in the Air Force and thirty on the line at Ford.
And though his voice still has a touch of his native Virginia, he has lived most of his life in the blue-collar downriver suburb of Taylor. In fact, so many of its citizens are fellow southern transplants that the town is sometimes referred to as “Taylortucky.”
Even while he was working and helping his wife Iva raise two kids, Basham always found time to serve his communities.
He was active in the United Auto Workers union at work, serving on the local’s bargaining committee, and did what he could for Taylor, serving on the water commission, planning commission, and as constable before finally getting elected to the city council.
From there, it was on to the House and Senate. Throughout his career, he seems to have been driven by a desire to make life better for his fellow citizens. For years, he fought for a smoking ban in bars and restaurants, something finally achieved this year.
That wasn’t universally popular with his mostly blue-collar, working-class constituents. But Basham felt it was the right thing to do.
Now, in the waning days of his career he is still fighting, in a cause most see as hopeless, at least this year. He’s fighting to get the state senate to vote on whether to build the new Detroit River International Crossing Bridge.
Last May, Senate Majority Leader Mike Bishop promised an up-or-down vote on the bridge before the session was over. Then, last month, he changed his mind. Bishop’s office says flatly that the issue is dead. Republicans are in firmer control of the state senate than ever, since one Democrat recently quit.
But Basham is not giving up attempting to use procedural maneuvers to force the bill out of committee and onto the senate floor. He knows it’s a long shot, what he calls a “Hail Mary pass into the end zone.“ But he says he won’t give up trying.
Why? Well, Basham believes the new bridge is the right thing to do, and is convinced that it eventually will be built, despite the fierce opposition and deep pockets of Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun. And Basham thinks it is vital for Michigan that it get started now. “People’s long-term unemployment is running out,” he told me.
“This is the biggest job driver, biggest job-creating project anywhere out there. It’ll mean more than ten thousand jobs. It’s a two billion dollar project for the State of Michigan,” he said.
Having to start over next year puts off putting people back to work. Ray Basham himself won’t be out of work. Since the voters couldn’t re-elect him to the Senate last month, they made him a Wayne County Commissioner instead. But he says he intends to keep fighting for the bridge as long as he is in Lansing, because the times are too tough and this opportunity too big to let it get away.