The Michigan Republican Convention 8-28-2010

It was a long, long, long, long, day today. I didn’t get much (any) sleep for today, so this may come off as a little ornery. Today was the Republican convention. It was a little different than most conventions and probably has the most contentious floor fights since a couple of the Youth Chair fights a few years back.

The nominees are as follows:

Lt Governor – Brian Calley
UM Regents – Andrea Fischer Newman and Andrew Richner (Uncontested)
Wayne State Trustee – Danialle Karmanos and Diane Dunaskiss (Uncontested)
MSU Trustee – Mitch Lyons and Brian Breslin
State Board of Education – Dr. Richard Zeile and Eileen Weiser (Uncontested)
Supreme Court – Justice Robert Young and Judge Mary Beth Kelly
Attorney General – Bill Schuette
Secretary of State – Ruth Johnson

The first sign that this wasn’t going to be an average convention is the rumors and hype about what the rules were going to be, etc. Much of that was yesterday. I was asked to be alternate for the rules committee. If I was voting on changes or potential changes to the rules, I wanted to know what the facts were and not what the hype was. I was not elevated to being on the committee, and based on what I found out, I’m kind of glad I wasn’t because I was going to be dodging a bunch of arrows no matter what I did. I left when that committee started because I heard there was rumor of possible 8th district caucus beforehand, and with at least three high ranking 8th district committee members tied up in the rules meeting, I wanted to make sure I was ready if needed for votes as I’m an officer on 8th district. I didn’t stay in the rules meeting for the whole thing, but I know the proposed changes failed on a close vote. I was opening to altering one rule, and was completely against altering most of them. One alarming rumored rules proposal was straight out of the union. No secret ballot. That was a problem in the past, and I’m glad that we have had a secret ballot for the last couple conventions. It needs to stay, and I will be raising hell here if that ever changes. More on the rules later.

My biggest complaint was the lines. I knew this was going to be a tough convention because there are a lot of new people with tea parties, longtime local activists who now were going statewide, and the longtime activists and normal factions who were there. We knew there was going to be a high turnout. That’s part of the reason why this was at the Breslin Center. However, there should not be hour+ lines going on to start the convention. That’s going to put people in a foul mood to begin with. I understand the need for security, but there should have at least been multiple lines (A-L/M-Z etc), or credentials mailed. That would have saved at least 2-3 hours today.

The first interesting battle was over Lt Governor. The West Michigan Tea Party faction opposed Brian Calley as Snyder’s pick, or wanted to send a message of some sort and wanted Bill Cooper, who ran for Congress in the 2nd District, to be the Lt Governor. The big battle was over the voting process on this. The party wanted a show of hands. The tea party wanted roll call. It was getting very contentious until Cooper withdrew from the race and gave his speech. It was a good speech, and if there is a lesson to learn from that, it is to learn the processes of conventions, its rules, how the committee members are selected and elected, and how they are changed. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Personally for this race, I’d like to have seen this go to a secret ballot vote with the others which were on there, even using “candidate A and Candidate B” ballots. It could have been done that way. The raise of hands votes can be shady at times. Oral roll call would have taken 10 hours and I would have staunchly opposed that. I know traditionally that the Governor candidate historically picks the LT candidate which is almost always confirmed easily, but there needs to be preparation when the gubernatorial candidate gets 35% in the primary. I didn’t have a problem with Calley, especially when some of the other names I’ve been hearing were much, much, worse. However, there is a virulent backlash against anything these days that comes off as old boys club, whether it is or not.

After that start, there was a bunch of uncontested races that were uneventful. I was waiting for one to have some possible headaches, but that didn’t happen.

Then came the contests. Most were done right. Two of them were one on one. Winner wins. That’s how the AG and Supreme Court races were. The Supreme Court race was civil with Mary Beth Kelly winning easily with the support of the justices of what used to be considered the best State Supreme Court in the country. The AG race was for awhile, but I think Bill Schuette nearly lost what was at one time a massive lead when his camp drew first blood and went negative through a surrogate (when there was an extremely negative SoS campaign). I expected better from him. I like both Schuette and Bishop and can easily vote for either of them this fall. Schuette won in a very close race, and will be facing Genesee (Flint) County Prosecutor. Judge Schuette v Prosecutor Leyton. It should be an interesting race.

One major contentious race was MSU trustee. It turned out the way the rules were set up worked better for the candidate opposed by many of the establishment anyway. They wanted all candidates up with people voting for the top two of the three. The way the rules were set up split the MSU trustee seats. These were rules from either February or last year. They’ve been there for awhile. I didn’t like this particular one, but the process should have been set then, not today. Anyway, it wasn’t the way I was concerned it would be. I was concerned that incumbent Don Nugent, whom I did not support due to tuition increases and too much of a willingness to go along with the more liberal decisions of the board, would be getting a free pass. Nugent was openly supported by most of the state party due to being an incumbent. It turned out that Nugent did not get a free pass. He announced his re-election for what was classified as either “seat A” or “seat B”. I’m not sure which was which. Breslin ran for the seat currently held by democrat Colleen McNamara (Airport Ed McNamara’s daughter). Lyons ran as well and had to choose one seat or the other. He chose, whether planned or not, Nugent’s seat. Breslin got the pass. Going into the convention, I thought it was going to be vote for two out of the three. That’s how it should have been, just like the November ballot. For me, at least I could have done that in that I could vote for both Breslin and Lyons as planned.

What really riled up the crowd was when one individual introduced a motion. That was poorly handled, and may have actually contributed to costing Nugent his trustee position. The motion was combining the two seats and having the top two of the three candidates moving on the ballot, just as we vote for two candidates in the November election. The parliamentarian said that the motion was for Mitch Lyons to run on two ballots, once against Breslin, and once against Nugent. That was not the motion. Not at all. That could have been explained better through the rules and procedures that they were not allowed to do things as stated in the motion and that the alternative allowed under the rules that had to be approved before convention only allowed this instead. Do you still support this motion? That really riled up the crowed and looked like incumbent protection to many of the newcomers there, as well as some of the old guard who were not procedure junkies. The vote came in, and Lyons won. It wasn’t even all that close.

There was contention of the Secretary of State race procedures. Some wanted multiple votes where the last place candidate dropped out. The rules stated two votes. The highest two vote-getters run off Southern Style for the winner (unless one gets 51%). I happen to support the current rules in place for this race, else we’d be there all night. Runoff system works great here. It worked well here, and it was fair.

It was an interesting convention, and it foreshadows the future and what we as activists need to prepare for AFTER the November elections. Bill Cooper hinted at this to his tea party supporters. Those who are tea party activists, long time republican activists who aren’t tea party, establishment supporters, and your classic convention unpredictable swing voter like me need to know how things work. Marco Rubio said it best in Florida when he was battling RINO Charlie Crist, then supported by Florida’s state party. If you don’t like the job the establishment is doing, pick a better establishment.

We as republicans choose our establishment. My own view on establishment is this. When they are right, I support them. When they are wrong, I don’t. Today they were both. They were dead right in the Secretary of State race, and dead wrong in their quasi semi-official support of Don Nugent (whom the majority believed did not deserve re-election). Regardless of that, the establishment is elected. That goes for State Party, down to county party.

Precinct delegates make the decision. Their number one job is to choose party leadership. They(we) need to be informed in what goes on. That means they need to show up at meetings. They need to show up at conventions. They need to know who is running for the party positions, and make informed decisions as to who they support.

All Precinct Delegates go to county conventions. County Conventions choose the county executive committee. I happen to think that Livingston County’s executive committee, the “establishment” here does a pretty good job. The county conventions choose delegates to different state conventions. After the election, there will be a state convention for party leadership. Those delegates chosen go to state convention and caucus with congressional district. This chooses our district committee. Until this current term, the 8th district committee was just a bunch of fancy titles that didn’t do jack squat outside of procedures at state. This term, we’ve built the committee from nearly scratch and it will be a player in some races this fall.

It is also at these conventions were state committee is chosen (outside of county/district chairs – which are also elected by delegates). This is the big one. State Committee. There’s also state party officers – chair and vice-chair which are also elected by state delegates.

Know the processes. Know how things work. Work through the processes to create good change when needed, and prevent bad change (Ie, the Hamburg problem spreading to the county party) when it isn’t needed. Prior planning prevents piss poor performance. That goes for everybody. Establishment. Tea Party. Candidates. Delegates.