Question 1): A panel within the Democratic National Committee (DNC) last Friday approved an historic resolution providing Michigan a waiver to host its Democratic presidential primary on Feb. 27, 2024.
The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee’s action would make Michigan the fifth state in line in the Democratic presidential nominating process. Under this scenario, South Carolina will host the first Democratic primary on Feb. 3, 2024, New Hampshire and Nevada will share the Feb. 6 slot, Georgia will hold theirs on Feb. 13, and then comes Michigan on Feb. 27. Next, the DNC will need to ratify the new dates in early 2023, with Democrats from Iowa and New Hampshire remaining vocal in their fierce defense of their traditional slots, which would be threatened under the new set-up.
But for all this to come into play, Michigan would have to change its law to move its 2024 primary from the second Tuesday in March to Feb. 27, 2024.
Such a move is already underway. With legislation that passed in the Michigan Senate 34-1 on Nov. 29, Michigan’s presidential primary election would be moved from the second Tuesday of March to the second Tuesday of February, which would be earlier than Feb. 27.
So that bill, SB 1207 , would need to be modified before being sent to the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer if lawmakers wish to host a statewide election on the date assigned to Michigan by the DNC.
However, if SB 1207 is enacted as now written or slightly amended, Michigan Republicans would pay a price with a loss of delegates to their 2024 national convention.
So, the questions are: Do the state House Republicans, who still control both the state House and Senate until Dec. 31, “play ball” with their Democratic opposition to give President Joe Biden and Democrats at both the state and national levels what they want, even if it might mean the Michigan GOP will suffer the consequences? Can legislative Republicans somehow reach a “bargain” with Dems that would give the GOP SOMETHING out of this deal? Why would Democrats want to make a deal with legislative Republicans now when they know that, beginning in January, they will control the law-making process entirely because they will have majorities in both chambers as well as a Democratic governor who will sign anything they send her?
Answer 1): Democrats have no reason to barter with Republicans now since they can get everything they want in little more than a month. The Michigan GOP is most at risk of being penalized by the Republican National Committee (RNC) if SB 1207 is successfully signed into law, as the RNC has already set its primary schedule with Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina at the forefront of its calendar. Do Democrats care? No.
Keith SCHIPPER, a communications aide at the RNC, confirmed to MIRS newsletter that the national GOP already set their calendar this past spring, and the rules cannot be changed until the summer 2024 Republican National Convention in Milwaukee.
According to background sources obtained by MIRS, Michigan Republicans have two options to best safeguard their number of delegates. The state by law could agree to finance and conduct a separate election day for the Republican presidential primary in 2024, or, more likely, the Michigan Republican Party could run its own separate convention or caucus-style nominating election.
In 2020, during the first re-election campaign of former President Donald TRUMP, Michigan was represented by 73 delegates. If Republicans in Michigan decide to participate in a presidential primary before March, 2024, Republican National Committeeman Rob Steele told MIRS that “the Republican rules say that we will be significantly penalized as to how many delegates we get at the convention.” If Republicans jump in line, the number of the party’s delegates to the 2024 GOP National Convention could drop to as low as 12.
Matt Grossman, a political scientist at Michigan State Univertsity, told MIRS that “Yes, (passage of the bill) may mean a reduction in the number of (Republican) delegates (to the GOP national convention), but the total delegates submitted by the state are not really the main role of the early states, (which) is to impact elections in other states and get candidates to drop out, so (Michigan) can still have a very influential role in the process even if, officially, (Michigan Republicans will have) reduced their delegate share.”
In other words, Passage of an amended SB 1207 could mean that losing delegates is a small price to pay for Michigan Republicans being able to have greater influence over how their presidential candidates mold their strategies — provided the candidates agree to participate.
We should remember, too, that, in 2008, Michigan held a Democratic presidential primary on Jan. 15 without a waiver to do so from the DNC. After the Dems’ national committee originally stripped all of Michigan’s 156 delegates at the time, the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee decided Michigan could have 78 votes at the national committee. That’s usually what happens. The party’s eventual nominee (in 2008, it was Barack Obama) doesn’t want any state angry with him or his party because he allowed that state to be penalized by loss of delegates.
When Biden attempted to run for president in 2008, his campaign called Michigan’s January primary a “beauty contest” and withdrew, along with Obama and several others, from participating. Hillary Clinton stayed in the contest and won it over a weak field, but in the end that turned out to be irrelevant when Obama secured the nomination.
Grossmann opined that Republicans might be reacting more quietly to Michigan’s possible election changes because “they obviously don’t want to be in a position of making Michigan (voters of all stripes) mad.” After all, Michigan is still considered a swing state, and the electorate could remember and punish the GOP in November, 2024, if it sees Republicans as obstructionists.
Delegates elected to Michigan Republicans’ 2023 state convention this coming February may also have another motive to ignore the state’s new 2024 presidential primary date (assuming there is one) and to opt out of a 2024 presidential primary altogether. Right now, it would appear a majority of the delegates to the February, 2023, conclave will be devotees of former President Donald Trump, who has announced he is pursuing the 2024 presidential nomination. So, the delegates at their session two months from now could change the party’s rules and substitute a 2024 convention or caucus to select the party’s delegates to the 2024 GOP national convention. That may give Trump a better chance to win a plurality, if not a majority, of the state’s delegation than would a primary, which Democrats and Independents would be allowed to vote in and “meddle” with the GOP’s choice of a nominee.
Question 2): Former Republican Attorney General nominee Matt DePERNO and former Secretary of State nominee Kristina KARAMO were among the Republicans to meet the first deadline for state party chair candidates when they submitted at least four signatures from the 13 GOP Congressional district chairs by the end of last week..
Other big-name potential candidates – such as former U.S. Rep. Pete HOEKSTRA, Congressional candidate Lena EPSTEIN, and gubernatorial nominee Tudor DIXON — have not yet filed, but they could still get in with the signatures of 8 of the 13 district chairs by a later deadline.
But wait! There are at least three other candidates, at this point. According to MIRS, they are:
— “Cool” Mike FIRAGE, the president of the Grand Rapids Taxpayers Association, who led a successful effort to create term limits for the Grand Rapids City Commission. He’s also run for several local offices in the Grand Rapids area.
— JD GLASER, an IT specialist who worked with the Kalamazoo Electoral Action Team to strengthen election integrity and election law enforcement.
— Kent BOERSEMA, a Ravenna Village Trustee who once was the clerk in Sand Lake. He’s a private security guard who once interned for former state Senator Dave HILDENBRAND.
Three other people, including Epstein, have pulled papers for chair. As many as 10 have expressed interest (See “Karamo Adds Her Name To Record Number Of GOP candidates,” 11/30/22).
So, what does this plethora of candidates to be next chair of the Michigan Republican Party mean? Is it the sign of a healthy party with a top prize worth getting? Or is it a sign of disarray, especially with so many “loser” aspirants who have never shown that they can win anything and have little or no no ability to raise money, unlike the current chairman, Ron Weiser, or one of his predecessors, Bobby Shostak?
Answer 2): The Michigan Republican Party IS in disarray, with different factions warring with each other. It is unprecedented to have this many candidates currently vying for the party’s top job. Obviously, many of these will drop by the wayside long before the February MRP convention; of those who insist they’re in it till the end, most will never make it to the starting gate. What the Republicans need but don’t have is somebody who can unite all the disparate factions by threading a needle that binds together the Donald TRUMP wing of the party and the ‘establishment’ and traditional conservatives and big-hitter fundraisers who basically sat out the last election after being unmotivated even to vote — much less raise money — because flawed candidates like DePerno and Karamo were among the party’s nominees for the state’s top constitutional offices.
Hoekstra has some shot at the nomination if he files papers, but he could be an early casualty. Hoekstra could still turn out to be a player at the convention if he were to throw any support he has to somebody else who could unite the disputatious factions.
As for Hoekstra’s announced request to Donald Trump to not endorse in the race, we know that Trump accepts advice from nobody, including Hoekstra. Trump generally takes advice only from himself .
Bottom line: The Michigan Republican Party is farther removed from being ‘united’ than at any time since George Romney arrived on the scene in the early 1960s. Trump is obviously poison to a lot of the electorate, yet a majority of the delegates to the February conclave are likely to be Trump acolytes. It will take a near miracle for the GOP to ‘pull a rabbit out of the hat’ by uniting behind some ‘healer’ who can pull the fratricidal warring camps together in time for 2024.
Mike in TC says
Bill, your column was written before Trump’s most recent and disastrous comments about suspending the US Constitution in order to change the 2020 (!) election results. Thus, your comment that “a majority of the delegates to the February (GOP convention) will be devotees of Former President Donald Trump” could be outdated…and wrong. Republicans have historically been the strongest supporters of the US Constitution. Even those who stuck with him through the January 6 riot, and earlier crazy statements should be expected to reject the most recent nuttiness. Don’t you think his recent statement will provide an OPPORTUNITY for Party leaders to leave Trump and look for electable candidates?
David Richards says
Ditto. My question also.
John C Stewart says
I amazed at the veracity of of the the above statements. You get it -the Republican Party is in “disarray” to quote Bill Ballenger. All I can say is to quote A. Lincoln “We cannot escape history”.
Timothy K SULLIVAN says
Nice article, as usual, Bill. I’ve been on vacation so this reply might be a bit on the long side. Just a bit.
Regarding Question 1, it doesn’t really matter. Come January, the GOP will be stuck with whatever the Democrats give them. Elections have consequences.
Concerning Question 2, the GOP always seems to be in some sort of disarray, at least since I’ve been old enough to vote. This is nothing new and the level of disarray varies. In the late 70s and early 80s, the conservative wing of the party was usually upset with Bill Milliken over policy issues. It erupted in the 1982 primary when in a field of three conservative candidates and Jim Brickley, the conservatives mostly united around Dick Headlee and Brickley was defeated. Soundly. There was a lot of furor over the ’82 primary, but nothing that was not curable despite the bad blood. Support for establishment GOP types for Headlee was not exactly universal and the establishment got a pro-business Democrat in Jim Blanchard. As a postscript, when Mary Coleman retired (or was pushed) from the Supreme Court, Brickley got the nod to replace her and the conservatives dutifully voted for him in subsequent elections, being more forgiving towards his subsequent candidacies than the establishment was for Headlee.
The party was a bit rambunctious for John Engler as well, nominating folks in the convention he did not want nominated. No significant long-standing damage was done (and I seriously doubt people think that Scott Romney would have beaten Jennifer Granholm for AG that year).
Thinks were a bit more rambunctious for Snyder as there was an attempt to foist on him a Lieutenant Governor he did not want. A bunch of smoke and fury, but not much else as Snyder got pretty much what he wanted. And the populist wing seemed to bide its time.
As for 2022 and beyond, we have on one side the “establishment”, “business” or “traditional” Republicans on one side and the “populist”, “conservative”, or Trumpians on the other. The side most upset now is the “establishment” wing of the party. They are upset that the “populist” wing dominated in the 2022 and blame them for the outcome. The establishment wing doth protest too much.
Where to begin?
1. The establishment wing put little to no effort in getting folks elected as delegates. It’s been several decades since I took Poli Sci classes at U of M and Eastern (once a Huron always a Huron), but even in the haze of those subsequent decades, that is not a smart plan. If you want to influence these things, you need to get your people elected. If not, someone else will get elected and their views might differ from yours. The establishment approach seems to be best described as the nobility telling the peasants what to do and expecting them to obey. That has not been a successful tactic since the Middle Ages. And it was not successful in 2022.
2. The establishment’s favored candidate for Governor most likely was “Quality Guru” Perry Johnson, though I think they could have lived with James Craig. Both had establishment types in campaign positions of authority. Both seemed to have raised a goodly amount of money (and spent it, mostly not too wisely). And both used the same firm to secure signatures, most likely on the recommendation of that same establishment. Neither got enough valid signatures because the company did not do its job. OOPS!!! So much for quality control. But the four populist/Trumpian people, without much money, did get enough signatures. They got on the ballot fair and square. Maybe investing your time and effort in securing delegates is positive good in politics? Ya think?
So, what happened?
Well, at the Convention the populist/Trumpian wing – the folks who actually got elected as delegates – nominated their people for office selecting Karamo over Beau LaFave (I believe) and DePerno over Tom Leonard. And the establishment, who did not work hard to elect delegates and watched their preferred gubernatorial candidate crash and burn using their campaign people, had a tantrum. They took their money and stayed home, sort of, spending next to nothing for the executive offices but concentrating their spending on the legislature. Again, going back to my college poli sci classes, that is usually a recipe for disaster. And guess what they got? Disaster.
Political thinking and planning like that is a level of stupidity so profound that it almost defies parody. It would not surprise me if Whitmer, Benson and Nessel outspent Dixon, Karamo and DePerno better than 10:1. And despite being financially carpet bombed back to the stone age, their results were not notably worse than establishment candidates in 2018. In fact, Dixon did better than Schuette. And the GOP folks did quite well in east Dearborn (per the Freep) with DePerno outpolling Nessel, Steven Elliott outpolling Rashida Tlaib, and Dixon and Karama within low single digits of outpolling Whitmer and Benson. Not bad for an area they lost better than 9:1 in 2018.
So now comes the scrum for state chair. One thing missing in the article is the fun that Gretchen Whitmer can (and might) have influencing this. And if she wants to mess with the GOP’s collective heads, she should do the following, in this order.
1. Name the replacement of Janet McClelland on the Civil Service Commission. NOW. I would suggest someone from the MEA or MFT. It might make things a bit harried for union contracts until the end of 2024 when Bolger will be gone, but it will set a tone. What better way to let the Mackinac Center and tax cut types know that the rules (both civil service and how government will be run) are being changed.
2. First bill up in the new year, repeal the retiree tax. This should be overwhelmingly bipartisan and generate lots of good PR for her and will have consequences down the road (more on this later in this post).
3. Resurrect a Beau LaFave idea. Put the Corrections Officers back into a defined benefit pension plan with actual retiree health insurance. The time to announce this would be when she gives her inaugural address, mention it is LaFave’s idea and that good ideas know no party. This will piss off the establishment/business wing of the GOP and the no-tax nuts in it. They loathe public employee defined benefit pensions and retiree health insurance, but by giving it a GOP shout out, it might make for an uncomfortable Republican or three in the legislature. Given the Democratic control of both houses, it should pass.
4. Announce a plan to rebuild our mental health system. Karen Bouffard wrote a series on mental health in Michigan back in November 2019. This could be used as a template for the changes needed. We need hundreds of beds for adults and children, and we have no plan to do anything about it. She can be vague about it, but she has to let us know this will cost money.
5. Repeal Right to Work. This can be the most fun. The establishment will, of course, defecate cinder blocks and cornerstones over it. The Detroit News will have fits of apoplexy. But the most fun can be had at the expense of the “populist” GOP wing. A truly populist wing would have NO trouble with repealing right to work, but an establishment/business wing would. Point this out in the inaugural address. Make the “populist” wing decide if they are populist or have surrendered to the establishment.
And now the “more” promised a few paragraphs ago. All these things will cost money, and not just a one-time dose of money, but continued and ongoing spending. This will preclude the tax cuts championed by the establishment GOP. If they push tax cuts, who do they screw over? Corrections officers? The mentally ill? Someone else?
And to rub it in a little more for the GOP establishment, many of the previous Supreme Court rulings done by the GOP majority on the Court overturned lots of precedents that the Democrats and trial lawyers liked. Payback time. Actual or de facto Chief Justice Richard Bernstein will have so much fun leading the Court in this direction. And while the establishment wing of the GOP whines about that, they need to remember that the foundation for the new Democratic majority on the Court was laid down by Rick Snyder. He inherited a 5 – 2 GOP majority and it got pissed away. This will also exacerbate the GOP disarray until they figure out if they really want to be a populist party or a business party.
Mark M Koroi says
A poll was taken about two weeks ago showing that Billy Putman and Matt Deperno were ranked 1 and 2, respectively, among candidates for Michigan GOP chair.
Right now the wild card is Macomb GOP chair Mark Forton who has not declared his candidacy but is being urgedto run by some and being courted by declared candidates for an endorsement. Forton’s status among Michigan Republicans has soared this year by:
(A) beating Ron Weiser ally Eric Castiglia in a court action for control of the Macomb GOP;
(B) winning a statewide delegate vote at the 8/27/2022 state GOP convention to seat himself and slate of Macomb County delegates – forcing Castiglia-credentialed elegates into a walk of shame from the convention arena in Lansing;
(C) beating Castiglia in November of 2022 to retain his chairmanship following a dramatic roll call vote of Macomb precinct delegates.
In my opinion, the candidate field will eventually boil down to representatives of two camps – the establishment and anti-establishment wings of the party – right now Pete Hoekstra and Billy Putman are the frontrunners – but expect Forton to be a contender if he throws his hat in the ring.