Conservative First

Lessons from the 2018 Primary Elections

What can we learn from the 2018 primary elections? This article explains what the winning candidates had in common. I wrote similar articles in 2014 and 2016.

They don’t call it the establishment for nothing Establishment candidates won virtually all state senate races and most state house races. They have the inside track on fundraising, endorsements, and organization.

The moderate wing of the party was hammered, with David Maturen losing renomination, and Kathy Crawford narrowly surviving.  Daniela Garcia, Dave Pagel, Brett Roberts, Mike Callton, and Joe Haveman lost state senate primaries.  Only Chris Afendoulis and Mike McCready won primaries, advancing to competitive generals.

Some solid conservatives won primaries (Jim Runestad, Lana Theis, Tom Barrett), while others lost (Bob Genetski, Gary Glenn, and Ray Franz).  The most common winners were mainstream conservatives like Pete Lucido, Ruth Johnson, John Bizon, Kim LaSata, Aric Nesbitt, Roger Victory, Rick Outman, Jon Bumstead, and Curt VanderWall.  A similar pattern held in for state house nominations.

Experience counts Elected experience is valuable for winning candidates. All of the Republican state senate nominees were previously state representatives. State house winners Doug Tietz, Sarah Lightner, and Christine Barnes have all been elected to county commissions.

Incumbency Matters All but one incumbent Republican won renomination. Beating an incumbent in a primary is very hard. The one exception this year is Matt Hall, who spent more than 200K of his own money to defeat David Maturen.  The only other conservative challengers who beat a Republican incumbent in recent years are Tim Walberg in 2006 and Lee Chatfield in 2014. Certainly many incumbents deserve primary challenges, but conservatives have limited resources. Winning an open seat is much easier than beating an incumbent. Politicians can still be held to account when they run for other offices, as with the moderates listed above.  There are still some benefits to primary challenges, though, as they may encourage the incumbent to vote better for awhile and may help the challenger to win an open seat later.

If at first you don’t succeed  David Wolkinson and Gary Eisen both finished second in 2012 state house primaries.  This time, they won their primaries.  Matt Maddock lost a close primary for state senate in 2014, but won a big victory for state house this time.  Candidates who lost this time should look for opportunities to run again in the future.

Build a brand  David Wolkinson, Doug Tietz, Matt Maddock, Matt Hall, and Annette Glenn are known across Michigan for advocating conservative causes.  This can provide a larger fundraising base to tap when you run for office.

Don’t split the vote Conservatives did much better this year than in past years. Senate district 12 is one example where a conservative candidate likely lost due to vote splitting. Conservatives may have benefited from splits in the establishment in senate districts 30 and house districts 40 and 81.

Money doesn’t buy elections  Self-funding candidates have a bad electoral track record.  Shri Thanedar, Jim Himes, Sandy Pensler all self-funded statewide bids and lost.  Self-funder Lena Epstein did win the nomination in MI-11.

Money is essential Money does not guarantee victory, but it is essential to get your message out. This is particularly true in local elections, which are often decided by name recognition. Look at how much winning conservative candidates raised.
Wolkinson 69K
Tietz 67K
Maddock 98K
Hall 209K
Meerman 30K
Glenn 52K

The candidate who raised the most money won in 13 of 21 contested primaries in open Republican seats (fewer than in past cycles). I have written before that the minimum amount needed to be a credible candidate is $30,000. Only five winners raised less than 30K this cycle, two in races where no candidate did.  All but one winner raised at least 15K.

Exceptions are exceptional The only Republican with bad fundraising to win nomination is Gary Eisen, a firearms instructor who raised only 3K.  He had finished second in 2012, and apparently had built some support from that run.  He joins Steven Johnson (2016) and Aaron Miller (2014) as candidates who beat the odds despite poor fundraising. So it is possible for a candidate who works hard to catch on with voters without the usual advantages. But it definitely isn’t the way to bet, and it shouldn’t be an excuse to ignore the usual path to victory.

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2018 August Primary Election Results

Governor:
(R) Schuette 51 Calley 25 Colbeck 13 Hines 11
(D) Whitmer 52 El-Sayed 30 Thanedar 18
No surprise. Shri can’t buy votes.

Senate
(R) James 55 Pensler 45
Trump’s endorsement was key here.

Congress
6 (D) Longjohn 37 Franklin 29 Benac 21 Eichholz 13
9 (D) Levin 52 Lipton 42 Dynasty wins here.
11 (R) Epstein 31 Raczkowski 26 Kowall 18 Kesto 14 Bentivolio 11
11 (D) Stevens 27 Greimel 22 Gupta 21 Saad 19 Skinner 10
13 (Regular) (D) Tlaib 33 Jones 29 Wild 14 Young 12 Conyers 6 Jackson 5
13 (Special) (D) Jones 37 Tlaib 36 Wild 15 Conyers 11
A split black vote allowed Tlaib to win the regular primary, while a smaller candidate field allowed Jones to win the special primary.

State Senate
1 (D) Chang 49 Talabi 27 Progressive wins.
2 (D) Hollier 27 Banks 19 Aiyash 17 The cranks were rejected here.
3 (D) Santana 42 Woronchak 39 Belle 14
4 (D) Bullock 45 Durhal 39
5 (D) Alexander 54 Knezek 46 Huge upset of a white D.
6 (D) Geiss 65 Kosowski 35 More liberal D wins.
8 (R) Lucido 72 Goike 28
9 (D) Wojno 63 Lodovisi 37
10 (R) MacDonald 59 Shallal 27
11 (D) Moss 52 Bailey 21
12 (R) McCready 45 Tedder 44 Whitney 8 Moderate wins due to split conservative vote.
14 (R) Johnson 77 Houston 23
15 (R) Runestad 90 Saari 10 Good.
16 (R) Shirkey 64 Dame 36
18 (D) Irwin 35.6 Deatrick 35.2 Rajendra 26
19 (R) Bizon 59 Callton 41 More conservative R wins.
21 (R) LaSata 55 Pagel 45 Conservative R wins.
22 (R) Theis 75 Marinaro 25 Good.
24 (R) Barrett 70 Roberts 30 Big victory.
26 (R) Nesbitt 52 Genetski 29 Consumers Energy smear campaign wins here.
29 (R) Afendoulis 81 Oesch 19
30 (R) Victory 42 Garcia 26 Haveman 26 DeBoer 6 Good that Garcia lost.
31 (R) Daley 59 Glenn 41 Consumers Energy smear campaign wins here.
…(D) Luczak 53 Jordan 20 Pro-life D wins primary.
32 (D) Phelps 59 Gaudreau 41
33 (R) Outman 72 Alexander 28
34 (R) Bumstead 52 Hughes 48 Hughes’ big spending didn’t save her.
…(D) Sias-Hernandez 54 LaMonte 46 Big upset of preferred D candidate.
35 (R) VanderWall 49 Rendon 24 Franz 23 Younger candidate beats two former reps.
37 (R) Schmidt 80 Gurr 20
38 (R) McBroom 69 Carey 31

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Primary Recommendations for Michigan State House

Every seat in the Michigan state house is up for election in 2018, and many seats are open due to term limits.  The house has been run by its more conservative wing for the past four years.  Continuing this trend will depend on conservatives winning primaries in August.  Here are my recommendations for who to support in Republican primaries.  Some races are hard evaluate, so additional information from readers is welcome.

Recommended candidates are in bold.

36. Strangely, none of the three major candidates here have an issue page.  However, Dr. Karen Potchynok-Lund, wife of conservative former rep Pete Lund, is solely endorsed by Right to Life.
38. Moderate incumbent Kathy Crawford has voted to increase gas taxes, support hollywood subsidies and FoxConn subsidies, against electric choice, against an income tax cut, against constitutional carry, against cutting auto insurance rates, and against reforming civil asset forfeiture.  Chase Turner is running on a conservative platform and is endorsed by Pat Colbeck.
39. Assistant prosecutor Marsha Kosmatka is running on a conservative platform and is solely endorsed by Right to Life and Citizens for Traditional Values.  Ryan Berman and Kevin Tatulyan also have decent platforms.
40. Lawyer/businessman David Wolkinson has a fairly conservative platform.  CPA Paul Taros is a Tea Party activist who may not be the best fit for a moderate district. Mike Banerian and Malissa Bossardet have fairly generic platforms.  Joe Zane has made many democrat donations.
41. Oakland County Commissioner Doug Tietz is a good conservative who was campaign manager for the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative in 2006.
43. Independence Township Trustee Jose Aliaga is a solid conservative who has an Aq rating from the NRA, while his opponents both got C from the NRA.
44. Businessman Matt Maddock is a conservative leader in Oakland County.  He is solely endorsed by Right to Life.
51. Mike Mueller is the establishment favorite, but his positions are unimpressive.  County commissioner Drew Shaprio has a history of run-ins with the police and no issues page on his website.  Trump delegate Ian Shetron has a conservative platform.
63. Moderate incumbent David Maturen is pro-abortion, has a D rating from the NRA, and voted for gas tax increases and against income tax cuts.  He is being challenged by conservative activist Matt Hall (a third candidate dropped out).
65. Jackson County Commissioner Sarah Lightner is solely endorsed by Right to Life and has an Aq rating from NRA.
71. County Commissioner Christine Barnes seems to be more conservative than businessman Chuck Cascarilla, but the difference isn’t huge.
72. State rep. Steven Johnson has been one of the best conservatives in the house since his election in 2016.  He is endorsed by Right to Life, NRA, Pat Colbeck, and Bob Genetski.  He is being challenged by moderate Jennifer Antel.
73. Most establishment support has gone to Lynn Afendoulis, cousin of the moderate incumbent.  A better choice is Robert Regan, who is endorsed by the NRA, state senator Pat Colbeck, and state reps Dave Agema and Steve Johnson.
77. State rep Tommy Brann has been an average conservative in office.  He is being challenged by Daniel Oesch.
78. Niles city councilman David Mann is running on a conservative platform and is solely endorsed by Right to Life and conservative state rep Steve Johnson.
79. The candidate websites don’t show a clear distinction.  Pauline Wendzel is endorsed by local conservative activist David Yardley.
81. Kenneth Nicholl and Eric Stocker have raised the most, but have generic platforms.  Joel Williams and Gary Eisen have more conservative platforms.
84. There doesn’t seem to be a clear distinction between county commissioner Matthew Bierlein, Phil Green, son of conservative state senator Mike Green, and businessman Dean Smith.
88. Luke Meerman is solely endorsed by Right to Life, as well as by conservative former state rep. Tom Hooker.
90. Ottawa County Treasurer Bradley Slagh has most establishment support and is solely endorsed by Right to Life.  Orlando Estrada is a conservative alternative.
91. Greg VanWoerkem, a staffer for Bill Huizenga, has most establishment support and is solely endorsed by Right to Life.  However, former county commissioner Alan Jager has a higher NRA rating.
93. County Commissioner Anne Hill is running on a solidly conservative platform.
94. Saginaw Township Treasurer Steven Gerhardt is solely endorsed by Right to Life and is the most conservative candidate.
98. Annette Glenn is the wife of staunch conservative state rep. Gary Glenn.  She is solely endorsed by Right to Life and seems to be the only candidate running a serious campaign.
101. Radio host Jack O’Malley seems to be running the most serious campaign.  Carolyn Cater is runnning as a more conservative alternative.
102. State rep. Michelle Hoitenga has been one of the best conservatives in the house since her election in 2016.  She is being challenged from the left by William Barnett.
107. State rep. Lee Chatfield is a solid conservative who is in line to be the next Republican leader in the house.  He faces an unserious primary opponent.
110. Doctor and school board member Kirk Schott is solely endorsed by Right to Life and seems to be running the most serious campaign.

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Michigan State House Primary Preview

All 110 seats in the Michigan House of Representatives will be up for election in November. Republicans won a 63-47 majority in 2016, the same margin as in 2014. There are 42 open seats, 25 held by Republicans and 17 held by democrats. There are 23 open due to term-limits, 18 just due to seeking another office, and 1 pure retirement.

The last two cycles have seen contests between moderate and conservative factions in the house GOP, won by the conservatives narrowly in 2014 and more decisively in 2016.  This time, the house GOP candidate recruitment is solidly in the hands of conservatives, and conservative Lee Chatfield is the presumptive next house GOP leader.  There are still likely to be some ideological battles, particularly in districts vacated by moderate incumbents.



The following lists district number, current incumbent, geographic description, 2012, 2014, and 2016 state house results, 2012 Romney %, 2016 Trump % (if known), and political rating.  Candidates who filed a reporting waiver, indicating that they will not raise more than $1000 (and hence are not serious) are typically omitted.  The complete candidate list is available here:

http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/election/candlist/2018PRI_CANDLIST.html

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July 2018 Michigan State House Fundraising

July 27 was the deadline for campaign finance reports for Michigan legislature.  Here are summaries of the total amount raised in competitive Michigan state house districts.  Totals include in-kind contributions, and for Republicans, late contributions.  Candidates who filed reporting waivers are generally omitted.

2. (D) Tate 40K, Tinsley-Smith 16K, Bell 4K
4. (D) Razo 58K, Oberholtzer 48K, Friedrichs 38K, Nolish 26K, Almasmari 18K, Rob 7K, Jones 5K, Little 2K
5. (D) Johnson 23K, Payne 9K
6. (D) Edevbie 89K, Defoe 53K, Choske 36K, White 35K, Wilson 25K, Carter 24K, Magdeleno 7K, Humphries 3K
9. (D) Whitsett 21K, Stuckey 6K
11. (D) Walker 31K, Jones 29K
12. (D) Garza 42K, Taylor 6K
16. (D) B. Johnson 75K, McDermott 35K, Coleman 14K
17. (R) Bellino 120K, (D) LaVoy 34K
19. (R) Meakin 33K (D) Centers 69K, Pohutski 13K
20. (R) Noble 71K (D) Koleszar 46K
23. (R) Frazier 2K (D) Camilleri 178K
25. (R) Early 3K (D) Shannon 19K
28. (D) Green 49K, Stone 3K
29. (D) Carter 23K, Jackson 13K, Payton 11K
30. (R) Farrington 90K (D) Naoum 66K
35. (D) Reiter 68K, Bolden 37K, Gregory 22K, Meyers 7K
36. (R) Czasak 24K, Lund 57K, Wozniak 19K
38. (R) Crawford 53K, Turner 14K
(D) Bagchi 41K, Breen 16K, Petrillo 5K
39. (R) Berman 38K, Hoyt 4K, Kosmatka 68K, Tatulyan 18K (D) Suidan 30K
40. (R) Banerian 42K, Bossardet 48K, Secrest 6K, Taros 59K, Wolkinson 69K, Zane 37K
(D) Manoogian 92K, Bedi 67K

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Michigan State Senate Primary Preview

All 38 seats in the Michigan Senate are up for election in 2014.  Republicans currently have a 27-11 supermajority, and have controlled the senate since 1983.

For the past few years, the state senate has been more moderate than the state house.  This cycle, there are several ideologically split Republican primaries that will determine how conservative the state senate will be next year. These will be in districts 12, 21, 24, 26, 30, 31, 34, and 35.

1. [Detroit riverfront, Downriver] Safe democrat
SS 2014: 28-72 McCain: 22.0 Romney: 21.5 Trump: XX
Incumbent: Coleman Young (D term-limited)
This is one of five black-majority districts based in Detroit.  Young, who lost badly in his bid for Detroit Mayor, is now running for Congress.  State reps Stephanie Chang (14-P), Bettie Cook Scott (06-10, 16-18), and Alberta Tinsley-Talabi (10-16) are running for the D nomination, along with James Cole, Nicholas Rivera, and Stephanie Roehm.  Chang is a progressive favorite, but is opposed by Detroit Mayor Duggan and could struggle is a heavily black district. Pauline Monte is the R candidate.

2. [NE Detroit, Grosse Pointes] Safe democrat
SS 2014: 25-71 McCain: 20.1 Romney: 19.3 Trump: XX
Incumbent:  Bert Johnson (D term-limited)
One of five black-majority districts based in Detroit.  Johnson pled guilty to theft (hiring a fake employee to pay a debt).  There will be a special election at the same time as the general election.  Incredibly, eleven Ds are running.  Leading the pack is eight-time felon and disgraced former rep Brian Banks (12-17), who resigned in a plea bargain.  Former rep George Cushingberry Jr. (74-82, 04-10) is running after losing his seat on the Detroit city council due to scandal.  Former rep John Olumba (10-14) is running as a D after becoming an independent in 2013.  Former state rep Lamar Lemmons (99-06) is running.  Adam Hollier, Johnson’s former chief of staff, has received many endorsements as a (presumably) saner alternative to the other candidates.  Hamtramck city commissioner Abraham Aiyash has fundraised well in the Muslim community. Tommy Campbell, Lawrence Gannon, Anam Miah, William Phillips, and Regina Williams are also running.  Rs John Hauler and Lisa Papas are running.

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July 2018 Michigan State Senate Fundraising

July 27 was the deadline for campaign finance reports for Michigan legislature.  Here are summaries of the total amount raised in Michigan state senate districts.  Totals include in-kind and late contributions.

1. (D) Chang 147K Scott XX Talabi 10K
2. (D) Banks 157K Hollier 121K Aiyash 106K Miah 10K Gannon 9K Cushingberry 8K Lemmons waiver Olumba waiver
3. (D) Santana 113K Woronchak 117K
4. (D) Bullock 56K Durhal 100K
5. (D) Knezek 253K
6. (D) Kosowski 107K Geiss 74K
7. (R) Cox 162K (D) Qadir 117K Polehanki 69K
8. (R) Lucido 147K Goike 41K
9. (D) Wojno 169K
10. (R) Shallal 47K MacDonald 21K (D) Yanez 126K
11. (D) J. Moss 90K
12. (R) Tedder 165K McCready 138K (D) Bayer 68K
13. (R) Knollenberg 252K (D) McMorrow 161K
14. (R) Johnson 56K
15. (R) Runestad 212K (D) Pulver 53K
16. (R) Shirkey 180K Dame 24K
17. (R) Zorn 254K (D) LaVoy 17K
18. (D) Irwin 158K Deatrick 224K Rajendra 153K
19. (R) Callton 265K Bizon 264K
20. (R) O’Brien 371K (D) McCann 137K
21. (R) LaSata 114K Pagel 116K
22. (R) Theis 122K
23. (D) Hertel 281K
24. (R) Barrett 227K Roberts 139K (D) Rossman-McKinney 313K
25. (R) Lauwers 76K
26. (R) Genetski 201K Nesbitt 213K Wickstra 140K (D) Lewis 29K
27. (D) Ananich 253K
28. (R) MacGregor 255K
29. (R) Afendoulis 427K (D) Brinks 289K
30. (R) Garcia 259K Haveman 97K Victory 237K DeBoer 10K
31. (R) Glenn 243K Daley 118K (D) Luczak 30K Jordan 24K
32. (R) Horn 270K (D) Phelps 36K Gaudreau 12K
33. (R) Outman 65K
34. (R) Bumstead 184K Hughes 1.1M (D) Lamonte 29K Sias-Hernandez 53K
35. (R) Franz 52K Rendon 102K VanderWall 126K
36. (R) Stamas 324K
37. (R) Schmidt 386K Gurr 7K
38. (R) McBroom 128K Carey 129K (D) Dianda 179K

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David Maturen’s Liberal Record

David Maturen is a Republican state representative representing district 63 (eastern Kalamazoo and southern Calhoun counties).  He has held the seat since 2014, after spending 12 years on the Kalamazoo County Commission.  Maturen is one of the most liberal Republicans in the state house.

He voted to increase the state gas taxmotor fuel tax, and registration fees.

He voted to increase regulations on auto repairs.

He voted against electric choice.

He was one of only 12 house Republicans to vote against an income tax cut.

He was one of only 7 house Republicans to vote against constitutional carry.

He voted for corporate welfare for FoxConn.

He voted against a bill to cut auto insurance rates.

He voted against making English the official language of Michigan.

He voted against requiring a conviction before civil asset forfeiture.

Maturen is not pro-gun and has a D rating from the NRA.

Maturen is pro-abortion and has never been endorsed by Right to Life.

There is a better choice.  Matt Hall is right on the issues where Maturen is wrong.  (The third candidate in the race recently dropped out and endorsed Hall.)  Matt Hall is the clear choice for conservatives.

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NRA Endorsements

The National Rifle Association has just issued its endorsements for the 2018 primary.  They give grades to candidates who have voting records or fill out their survey.  They endorse most acceptable incumbents and endorse in some open seats.  Endorsed candidates are in bold.  (Aq means a candidate got an A from the questionnaire only, and doesn’t have a voting record.)

Governor:  No endorsement.  Schuette got A+, Calley and Colbeck got A, Hines got Aq.
US Senate:  No endorsement.  John James and Sandy Pensler both got Aq.

Congress:
8. Bishop A endorsed.
11. All five Republican candidates got A or Aq.

State Senate:
6. (D) Kosowski B, Geiss F
8. Lucido A+, Goike A
10. All three got Aq.
12. Tedder A, McCready D
14. Apparently nobody filled out the questionnaire.
15. Jim Runestad A+
16. Mike Shirkey A+
19. Bizon B+, Callton A.
21. LaSata A, Pagel C.
22. Lana Theis A+
24. Barrett and Roberts both got A.
26. Nesbitt and Genetski both got A.
29. Chris Afendoulis got C+.
30. Victory, Garcia got A, DeBoer Aq, Haveman B+.
31. Gary Glenn A+, Daley A-.
32. (D) Phelps A, Gaudreau F
33. Rick Outman A
34. Bumstead, Hughes both got A.
35. Franz, Vanderwall, and Rendon all got A.
37. Schmidt A+, Gurr Aq.
38. McBroom A, Carey Aq.

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Michigan Right to Life Endorsements

Michigan Right to Life has just issued its endorsements for the 2018 primary.  RTL swings a significant number of Michigan primary voters, so its endorsements will decide some races.

RTL will recommend all candidates if they are all pro-life, but if there is a serious non-pro-life candidate, they will pick one pro-life candidate to endorse.  Their noteworthy endorsements are listed below.

Governor:  All Republican candidates meet criteria.
US Senate: John James solely endorsed.  Sandy Pensler is not endorsed.

Congress:
All Republican incumbents are endorsed except for Fred Upton.  Notably, Upton was endorsed in 2012, 2014, and 2016 despite a past pro-abortion record.
9. Candius Stearns
11. All five Republican candidates are endorsed.

State Senate: All Republican incumbents are endorsed.
8. Both Lucido and Goike
10. All are endorsed
12. McCready and Tedder are endorsed (not Molnar or Whitney).
14. No endorsement of Ruth Johnson.
15. Jim Runestad solely endorsed.
19. Both Bizon and Callton are endorsed.
21. Both LaSata and Pagel are endorsed.
22. Lana Theis solely endorsed.
24. Both Barrett and Roberts are endorsed.  Roberts has not been endorsed in past cycles.
26. Nesbitt, Genetski, and Wickstra all endorsed.
29. Chris Afendoulis solely endorsed.
30. Victory, Garcia, DeBoer, Haveman all endorsed.
31. Glenn and Daley both endorsed. Luczak (D) solely endorsed.
33. Rick Outman solely endorsed.
34. Bumstead and Hughes both endorsed.
35. Franz, Vanderwall, and Rendon endorsed (not Urka).
38. Carey, McBroom both endorsed.

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