The vote, was one by the executive board of the Grand Traverse County Republican Party on whether to endorse State Senate Candidate Wayne Schmidt over Greg MacMaster in the 37th State Senate primary contest. The vote to choose one candidate over another in partisan (GOP) races would normally be considered off the table except under extraordinary circumstances. At least that is how it is designated in the by-laws of a number of other GOP county parties.
Questions must be asked. Is it prudent or even a legitimate practice? Is it fair to the candidates? Is it fair to the membership, and does it misrepresent the opinion of the party at-large?
In a number of county GOP organizations, including neighboring Antrim county, there is a ‘no-endorsement policy’ in the primary for partisan candidates. The Antrim county GOP at first glance may look to be playing favorites if one was to simply glance at the Antrim GOP’s site. Because of a couple of press releases posted without edit on the front page, it might seem that MacMaster, with a couple of press releases, has an advantage. However, I have verified with their chair, that if Schmidt were to send releases too, he would have had the same access, and they would be published there as well.
But he has simply never done so.
To the main point at hand however, something doesn’t ring true. Other counties like Cheboygan, have rules that allow endorsement in partisan primaries, but are restricted:
Section 4: Policy
A. It shall be the policy of the Executive Committee not to endorse or support individual candidates in contested Republican primary elections, except as provided in Section 5
Section 5: Endorsement in Contested Republican Primary
A. In exceptional circumstances where an endorsement will benefit the Party, the Executive Committee may endorse, support, or disavow an individual candidate in a contested Republican primary election
B. A resolution to endorse or disavow a particular candidate shall be adopted by two-thirds (2/3) of the Executive Committee present and voting, and provided notice of the resolution is given as provided in this Article
Cheboygan even limits the open endorsements by its officers as chair, vice chair etc.. :
Section 6: Conduct of Party Officers
A. The Party Officers of the Executive Committee in their official capacity shall not endorse partisan candidates in a contested primary election
B. An exception is when the candidate has received Executive Committee endorsement
Of course in their personal capacity, such limits are impracticable and permitted. (kind of a 1st amendment thing anyhow)
These types of endorsement rules are surprisingly frequent in a number of the county GOP organizations throughout the state though. Clinton, Schoolcraft, and Otsego counties’ party bylaws mirror the Cheboygan rules in this way, for example. Minor variations exist throughout Michigan, but in those local parties which DO allow partisan primary endorsement or disavowal, there is always a qualifier like the phrase “exceptional circumstances” used to provide an ‘out,’ for just-in-case scenarios; like bat-guano crazy candidates that threaten the reputation of the party, local or otherwise.
However, the bottom line is that most local party executive boards have had the good sense to avoid dividing their party by engaging in such favoritism by executive members.
And we are often reminded (usually by entrenched ‘establishment’ type Republicans who want to surrender principle) that “the purpose of the Republican party is to elect Republicans.” In the general election, it is considered of course, an easy choice. Even in the non partisan endorsements, its generally known who is a Republican, and supports Republican ideals and platform, and who is not. Yet not every member of any party will agree on a candidate in a contested partisan primary. In fact, there are often exceptionally strong opinions about one candidate or the other. 100% support from all party factions for one candidate over another is as near to impossibility as Detroit becoming a bastion of Conservative thought.
The very act of an executive board or committee choosing one over another for a full local party endorsement is both a LIE and a BREACH of TRUST.
It also serves to defeat the purpose of the local parties. We MUST ASK; “how might a party grow, if a potential member can only expect his or her valuable time, energy, and resources to be used to promote a candidate that is not preferred by that potential member?” What if the efforts of a member are negated by the executive committee when support is offered to one candidate over one they might be assisting?
The membership of the Grand Traverse County Republican Party was not made aware of this vote, where the rules were suspended, a vote was taken the same day, and a candidate was selected for endorsement by the party. The membership was not consulted for their opinions on who might be the better candidate, yet they were represented as having done so.
Yet on the following day, the endorsement was used by Schmidt in an email blast, which proudly boasted complete party support:
Grand Traverse County GOP endorses Wayne Schmidt in 37th Senate District
Schmidt support on the rise with big endorsement
There was no “Executive committee” or “Members of the Executive Committee” noted as the supporters. There was no asterisk noting a conditional understanding. Because it said “Grand Traverse County GOP endorses,” It was clearly implied that ALL the members of the Grand Traverse County Republican Party must support Wayne Schmidt.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it must have come as interesting news to Greg MacMaster and his Wife Kim, who are dues paid members of the GTCRP, as well as being sponsors of the last Reagan Dinner, yet have apparently endorsed Greg’s opponent in this primary.
Using their own resources against them. (sound familiar?)
Before publishing this, I waited for a correction. As of this writing, there has been no news of a correction, retraction, or change in the wording of the endorsement, nor has there been a response to the request for the current bylaws for the GTCRP. One member of the executive committee has said that “there will be a change” of how the endorsement reads, but that the board will not likely revoke the endorsement, validating the suspicions of many members in the county that the local party leadership is neither inclusive nor is it representative of the local Republicans at large; many who have great disdain for big government sycophant Schmidt.
In this election cycle there is another troubling aspect. Given the Grand Traverse County Republican office space also occupies the same space that the state party has designated as district headquarters, one might expect this impropriety could extend into all other races that occupying leadership finds an opinion. Will some election materials be moved, lost, or made more obscure to provide an advantage to a favored candidate in the primaries? Is it possible or even probable?
Isn’t that a question we shouldn’t have to ask?