Lessons from the Primary Election

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.

You Betcha! (10)Nuh Uh.(2)

  3 comments for “Lessons from the Primary Election

  1. KG One
    August 10, 2014 at 8:21 am

    Pretty good summation, but you've left one thing out: Being blatantly disrespectful towards the base does have consequences.

    In just about every interview I've seen and heard this week regarding the Primary, those who are part of the establishment along with those who have willingly sold their souls to them, have been clamoring for "unity" more than I've ever seen in years past.

    All using the same speaking points. All attempting to convince voters of what a candidate believes is far more important than what they have actually done in the past. All trying to rally the base that they have so successfully p.o.'d into believing that a "boogey man", usually Pres. B.O. or the democrats in general, are a far worse alternative than themselves.

    And finally, all while failing to differentiate how voting for Obamacare, Common Core, a bridge that we do not need and multiple unnecessary tax hikes (and those planned for lame duck like the gas tax hike), in any way makes them different from what a democrat would do in that same office.

    I see TPTB, more than a little concerned by their internal polling numbers, attempting to "kiss and make up" to the base in an attempt to bump those numbers more into their direction.

    However, seeing how quickly they have abandoned their own principles, should convince real conservatives that they aren't worth supporting in November.

    The end result will be the same regardless of the party affiliation of who wins.

    You Betcha! (3)Nuh Uh.(0)
  2. Republican Michigander
    August 10, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Generally good, but a couple of things.

    "Be the Establishment" - I couldn't agree more. Lana paid her dues in the party. 10 years. She had most of the establishment supporting her.

    Splitting the vote - That cost one of my clients. Matt Maddock held Kowall to under 50%. Molnar took 7%. Damn that hurts. It was also a concern in the 42nd race between Lana Theis and Nick Fiani, although a conservative won that seat.

    Money - Money is essential, but has diminishing returns as it increases depending by office. Money (lack of) was Peter Konetchy's weakness. Tom Barrett raised enough and is popular enough on both sides to avoid a primary. The advantages of 20K to 10K are substantial, as is 40K to 20K. 80K to 40K is big, but not on the same level. 160K to 80K matters, but lesser degree. - Even though the actual spread is bigger. At 40K, a candidate who knows what they are doing can run a very good race but there is not a lot of room for error. At 80K, there is some room for error. BTW - Take what the AFP candidates raised and add another 50K in mailings.

    Social Issues - That was Lana's ace in the hole. In Livingston County, the establishment is as pro-life as everyone else. When Perlberg was shown to be "pro-choice", that ended any chances as it reinforced his ideological reputation gained from the paper. RTL (unfortunately for Nick Fiani who is also pro-life) endorsed Lana (and only her).

    The 47th district (Vaupel, Day) was the Joe Hune/Cindy Denby effect (both backed Vaupel). It wasn't really an ideological vote and the candidates weren't far apart (despite what Lansing pundits say). The west side of Livingston County almost always votes as a bloc and votes heavily for their own. Wendy Day won everywhere east of Howell (52% in tea party heavy Tyrone Township was her best area). Hank Vaupel won everyone west of Howell outside of parts of Marion Township which was about 50/50 (Wendy's home - she won her precinct and one next to her home) and parts of the City of Howell (Phil Campbell's home). Vaupel got 72% in his home of Handy Twp, 64% in Conway Twp, and 61% in Iosco Township. The Fowlerville area punches above its weight more than any other area I know of outside of possibly Midland.

    You Betcha! (3)Nuh Uh.(0)

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