They don’t call it the establishment for nothing Establishment candidates won many races. They have the inside track on fundraising, endorsements, and organization. Notably, several winning conservatives, including Lana Theis, Jim Runestad, Jason Sheppard, and Triston Cole had substantial establishment support.
Be the establishment One answer to this is to become the establishment. Lana Theis and Triston Cole are both former county party chairs. It takes time to build political connections, but it pays off eventually.
Experience counts Elected experience is valuable for winning candidates. Lana Theis, Jim Runestad, Jason Sheppard, and Gary Glenn have all been elected to local office.
If at first you don’t succeed Tom Barrett, Todd Courser, and Triston Cole have all lost elections before, but gained valuable experience in the process. This time, they won their primaries. Candidates who lost this time should look for opportunities to run again in the future.
Build a brand Lana Theis, Gary Glenn, Cindy Gamrat, and Todd Courser are known across Michigan for advocating conservative causes. This provides a larger fundraising base to tap when you run for office.
Don’t Ignore Social Issues In recent years, conservatives have shifted much more emphasis to fiscal issues. While these issues are vitally important, conservative candidates should not ignore social issues. Notably, three conservative victors, Todd Courser, Gary Glenn, and Lee Chatfield, are all known as strong defenders of traditional marriage.
Don’t split the vote In several districts (45, 47, 58, 73, 104), several conservative candidates split the vote and allowed a more moderate candidate to win. Conservatives who care more about the cause than themselves should meet and agree on one candidate to support.
Money doesn’t buy elections Self-funding candidates have a bad electoral track record. Notably, Paul Mitchell and Brian Ellis, who both spent millions of their own money trying to get elected to Congress, lost handily. Self-funder David Trott did win, but that had more to do with Kerry Bentivolio’s weak campaign.
Money is essential This does not contradict the previous point. 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. Lana Theis raised 80K. Jim Runestad raised 82K. Jason Sheppard raised 36K. Tom Barrett raised 55K. Cindy Gamrat raised 39K. Gary Glenn raised 171K. Triston Cole raised 37K. The only Republican to defeat a state house incumbent, Lee Chatfield, raised 74K.
The candidate who raised the most money won in 18 of 21 primaries in open Republican seats. With one exception, the lowest amount raised by any successful Republican primary winner in a winnable district was Todd Courser’s 27K. A Republican candidate for state house who isn’t willing to raise (or self-fund) at least $30,000 is usually only going to waste everyone’s time.
Exceptions are exceptional There is one huge exception to the above points. In district 59, Aaron Miller, a 27-year-old Christian conservative teacher with little political experience who raised only 11K won with 38% of the vote in a four-candidate field. 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.