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    Who are the NERD fund donors Mr Snyder?

    Raise the curtain.

    Slowing Down The Coronation Train

    By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
    Posted on Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 05:48:12 PM EST
    Tags: Scott Boman (Detroit), Clark Durant (Detroit), Gary Glenn (Midland), Randy Hekman (Grand Rapids), Pete Hoekstra (Holland), Peter Konetchy (Roscommon), Chuck Marino (Howell), Michigan 4 Conservative Senate, coronation trains, primary schedules, power grabs, credibility and respect, leveraged influence (all tags)

    So I saw an article in the Detroit News last week that triggered some flashbacks from an August night a year ago.  Coupling that with some conversations that I've had over the past 13 months with influential members of the Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network has me scratching my head and wondering what the hell some of these people are thinking.

    A December 20th article by Marisa Schultz goes into some detail about a new group in Michigan politics - Michigan 4 Conservative Senate - and an attempt to unify the several tea party organizations in Michigan behind a single Republican candidate.  This, in theory, will provide the best possible shot at unseating the incumbent, Debbie Stabenow.  The model for this effort is Hoosiers For Conservative Senate, a tea-party unification project in Indiana targeted at primarying center-left republican incumbent, Dick Lugar.

    And the first problem that I have with this arrangement stems from the realization that there are some fundamental differences between the U. S. Senate election in Indiana and the U. S. Senate election in Michigan that I don't think have been taken into account:

    • Richard Lugar is, as I've noted, considered to be a center-left republican.  If I need to explain Debbie Stabenow to the regulars on this site, then y'all haven't been paying attention.  The point here, though, is the party affiliation of each of these incumbents.

    • Senator Stabenow faces no known primary challenge.  Senator Lugar, on the other hand, is going to have to face off against State Treasurer Richard Mourdock (the man being backed by HFCS) in the Indiana Senate Primary.

    • The consensus amongst the various reliable prognosticators is that the Indiana seat is likely safe (with or without Lugar).  Those same prognosticators cede that Stabenow is vulnerable, but differ as to the degree of vulnerability.  (Real Clear Politics, notably, considers Stabenow's seat to be a tossup.)

    • Regardless of who wins the republican senate primary in the Indiana, Joe Donnelly (current incumbent for IN-02, and member of the House Blue Dog Coalition) will be waiting for the general campaign.  Conversely, the republicans will have to go through a primary campaign to determine who will be the party's challenger to unseat Stabenow.

    • Oh, and one final critical difference:  According to the Federal Election Commission, the Indiana State Primary date is May 8, 2012 (with a filing deadline of February 10th).  The Michigan State Primary date is August 7, 2012 (with a filing deadline of May 15th).

    I'm all about having the January 14th MI4CS debate at CMU, especially since it seems that all of the filed republican candidates are making arrangements to attend.  But I am really scratching my head over the decision to hold an allegedly unifying statewide tea party straw poll six weeks later.  What is the damned rush, people?  I get that Snyder sucked then and sucks now, and I get that one of the principal reasons that he won the 2010 gubernatorial primary was because of three conservative candidates splitting the vote and paving the way for the One Fluffed Turd to secure the nomination (and promptly make the case for adding the runoff option into Michigan's primary process).

    But if the MI4CS stated objective is to stop Stabenow, then why hasn't someone recruited a suitable sacrificial lamb to enter the Democrat senate primary and force her to spend down that $6 million campaign war chest?  (For what my opinion is worth, I'll happily recommend either Mike Sak or Virg Bernero.)  Why is attempting to unite the tea party vote behind a Republican candidate 11 weeks in advance of the filing deadline considered a good idea?  What am I missing here?

    I'm asking because this segues to my second problem with this, which is: whose bright idea was it to schedule the straw poll conference smack dab in the middle of the GOTV weekend for the Michigan Republican Presidential Primary?  I mean, seriously, did no one check the primary calendar when this decision was made?  For a whole three weeks the national political media spotlight is going to be focused on Michigan.  Do you think that the Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network might have something better to do than waste time on a straw poll?  (For example, going door-to-door for presidential candidates would be a good idea, which even the several senate hopefuls may find themselves engaged in.)

    I have a suggestion for Ms. Cindy Gamrat and Mr. Randy Bishop, who seem to be the public faces of MI4CS:  Reschedule the straw poll conference to any date that isn't February . . . and do it now (unless, of course, your intent is to make the MI-TPPN and MI4CS look completely stupid; in which case the current plan will work quite nicely).

    I realize that the tea party network wants to coalesce as much and as early as possible behind a single principled candidate.  But is there some reason that this conference can't wait until March?  By all lawful means, tea party organizations and other grassroots activists should do everything within the limits of their abilities and influence to ensure that the candidate of their choice gathers enough support to successfully complete the primary campaign.  But let's also have a realistic view of this, and keep in mind that we have better things to do in February 2012 than engage in a controversial straw poll that is somewhere between two weeks and two months premature.

    The third problem I see with this relates to an attempt in August 2010 to use the tea parties as a voting bloc at the MIGOP state convention.  (A little memory refresher, it didn't work well.)  Herding cats is typically problematic, and as it occurred two summers ago, so now also there are some tea party leaders who are bucking what they view as an out-of-state attempt to co-opt the statewide tea party movement.  I'm not the only one asking some questions about this.

    According to my research, there are no fewer than 122 currently active tea party organizations in Michigan, yet only 55 of these groups are participating in the straw poll.  Who decided how to narrow that list down, and through what "vetting" process?  Why are only 110 people speaking for the entire tea party movement statewide?  What will be the criteria that the MI4CS endorsement will be based on, and why isn't that already public knowledge?  (And why are groups that are either PACs or affiliated with a nationwide organization being excluded, when MI4CS implies a connection with FreedomWorks right on the MI4CS home page?)

    My concern here is echoed by Dan Wholihan over at Right Michigander (a Michigan-centric blog that IMO should be kept on the roll, Jason), who has, I think, an interesting take on this matter.  In Dan's opinion, and I agree, this whole thing reeks of a power play; the only questions being as to who's engineering the power grab and for what purpose.  And because Dan makes the point so clearly, I'm going to let him talk for a few paragraphs:

    "Most tea party members I know aren't trying to be "big fish in a small pond."  Almost all of them never start out that way.  Eventually many leaders or "lieutenants" in these organizations gain a following, get told how great they are, and start to believe their own press clippings.  Many, not all, not even most.  The good ones stay grounded.

    However, this is politics.  The definition of politics is "who gets what, when, and how."  Power.  Power brings out the worst in a lot of people.  Politics is nasty for a reason, and nothing can get more nasty than internal political wars (along with local cities, school boards, and townships).  Been there, done that, and weary of being involved in it again.  I don't know the internals of this, but it's looking like a couple of power moves here.

    I don't know much about Cindy Gamrat outside of her being a recent Indiana transplant to Plainwell in Southwest Michigan.  Michigan 4 Conservative Senate is ... modeled after Indiana's attempt to take out the center-left Dick Lugar in Indiana.  Dick Lugar however is a Republican.  Far leftist Debbie Stabenow is not."

    I've had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Gamrat in person (at the Richland candidate event a few weeks back), and she doesn't strike me as a person with other-than-champion intentions; ditto for Mr. Bishop, whom I know reasonably well.  However, as I've learned in my half-dozen years of political involvement, it's very easy for personality to override principle when it comes to activism (especially when coupled with access).  Dan offers a similar observation:

    "That's a danger here I see with consolidation or quasi consolidation attempts.  I understand the thought of trying to herd cats or tea party folks to supporting one candidate to stop a Snyder, but ... this is a dangerous game that can easily become more about personalities than about issues.  Certain people like to see themselves as power brokers. ... That's what I refer to as big fish in little pond syndrome. ... Most of those who think they are big names, ... the ones who puff themselves up in the room, usually aren't important, and deep down, they know it."

    Again, this should not be construed as to impugn the motivation of anyone in MI4CS.  Rather, consider it as a sound warning.  Many within this state's tea party network are accusing "the establishment" of co-opting the primary process and morphing it into a coronation campaign.  However, as Dan points out elsewhere in his article, a process that seems so opaque that not even the mechanics of it are open to public scrutiny invites the question as to whether this is deliberately rigged to ensure a "not Hoekstra" endorsement.  And thus his observation (and my concern) that the MI4CS is merely offering an alternative coronation campaign . . . neither better nor different than what they accuse the party establishment of doing.

    "The good and bad with tea parties is that many of them are new to politics.  The good about that is that the old boys and girls club gets shaken up.  The GOP establishment is largely as disliked as the democrats.  They want to get involved and make a difference.

    However, not all of the "establishment" is bad.  Many of us have been involved 10, 20, or 30 years.  Many of us are as conservative or more so as the tea party members.  We also have a long history of inside baseball and power struggles and good intentions producing bad results."

    The primary process is supposed to be about vigorous and honest debate.  That means, if we're going to do this honestly, that we not only ask the tough questions of every candidate, but that we also fairly and critically listen to the answers offered.  Yes, Pete Hoekstra has an 18-year, publicly reviewable, record in Congress; that's an advantage and a disadvantage.  A disadvantage, because even Pete admits that he's cast some votes that fairly qualify as stinkers (and the question then becomes whether we're willing to accept an honestly offered apology and move forward).  An advantage, because not all of those votes were bad, and in fact some of those votes that we flag as "questionable" are reasonably defensible . . . if we're willing to listen.

    Here's where I insert a bit of interesting trivia.  Back in late September, Pete participated in the senate candidate forum in DeWitt hosted by the Mid-Michigan Patriots.  As with seemingly every other such event, an exit straw poll was conducted (for which MMP had gone to some length to ensure that no candidate's campaign could pre-stack the audience or vote-stuff the ballot box).  Pete finished in second place, nine points behind Gary Glenn and five points ahead of Clark Durant.  This tells me that, even in a crowd that is likely predisposed to be critical of his record, Hoekstra generally does well when given a fair chance.

    I've said it before, and I'll say it again here:  I don't have a pick in this race just yet (as I'm currently a tad more focused on the February presidential primary), and I probably won't develop one until after the Michigan presidential primary is over with.  And to be honest with you, I don't much care who gets the MI4CS endorsement, as long as it isn't open to the reasonable accusation of merely being an alternative coronation campaign.  The Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network has one shot at permanently entrenching its influence on the Michigan Republican Party, and it will all hinge on how the several organizations conduct themselves during the various 2012 campaigns.

    I've spoken with several of the MIGOP vice-chairs over the course of the past year, and all of them agree that the tea party movement stays relevant so long as it stays credible.  I agree with Mr. Wholihan's assessment that the tea parties (plural intentional) need to remain about principled ideology, because that is the core strength of the movement.  But once the tea parties start to become about the consolidation of leveraged power (intentionally or otherwise), a very steep price will be paid in credibility and respect.

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    A very important correction . . . (none / 0) (#1)
    by Kevin Rex Heine on Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 08:06:06 PM EST
    . . . for the record.

    Not much after I'd posted this article, I received a phone call from Randy Bishop, who wanted to discuss it and ask me to correct some factual errors.

    • Any impression from the Detroit News article (or any other source) that he is in any way a public face for MI4CS is inaccurate.  He is an active supporter of the effort, but nothing more.

    • Likewise, the candidate forum on January 14th is not in any way a "debate" and Marisa Schultz' statement to that effect in the Detroit News is a misrepresentation.

    • Randy flatly denied that this is a power grab . . . and he wouldn't be involved in it if it were.  Rather, MI4CS is an effort to coordinate the Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network for the purpose of one specific election.  If the concept works well, then it'll be considered for 2014 as a means to unseat Carl Levin.  (My own observation here:  I know Randy well enough to believe him when he says that he'd never participate in a power grab if he knew that's what it was.  He was one of the tea party leaders opposing the shenanigans at the Gathering of Eagles back in August of 2010.)

    Randy also informed me that one of the moderators of the January 14th forum will be Greg Marshall of Patriot Voice Radio Network.  The forum will also be streamed live (stay tuned for more information in this regard).  Even though he currently opposes Hoekstra, Bishop did make it clear that he will support the winner of this straw poll regardless, even if it is Hoekstra.

    I'll be... Damn near $2 mill betwix 'em... (none / 0) (#2)
    by Corinthian Scales on Wed Dec 28, 2011 at 08:28:42 PM EST
    ...and 'ol TARPstra and Durant still suck hind teat.


    Nicely played though:

    A disadvantage, because even Pete admits that he's cast some votes that fairly qualify as stinkers (and the question then becomes whether we're willing to accept an honestly offered apology and move forward).  An advantage, because not all of those votes were bad, and in fact some of those votes that we flag as "questionable" are reasonably defensible . . . if we're willing to listen.

    Um, no.  Hell NO.  Damn near two decades of the Legendary Sofa is enough.

    What a quagmire (none / 0) (#3)
    by Corinthian Scales on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 10:29:58 AM EST
    Yannow, it is what it is, I reckon.  All this flapdoodle over a "stealth coronation" by an alleged "TEA Party" is completely laughable by comparison to the overt coronation.

    Ferchrissake, just look at what is calling itself "Grassroots Conservatives for Hoekstra"

    Mike Bishop - Southeast Michigan:  Former Republican Senate Majority Leader, so inept that we ended up with a Smoking Ban in this state, and absolutely sharted himself with the last day Lame Duck Senate attempt for a Autism coverage mandate for Lt. Guv Calley, which rightfully snuffed Bishops' further political aspirations seeking the AG nomination in 2010.

    Bill Cooper - West Michigan: Sorry Bill, Pete TARPstra's Dutch Mafia cronies chose MI Film Subsidy loving, TARPstra staffer Huizinga.  What the hell are you doing associating your name here is waaaaaay beyond my comprehension.

    Jack Hoogendyk - Southwest Michigan:  Yeesh... how does it get much worse?  And, Jack is a declared TARPstra "Grassroots" fluffer too?  Oy vey!

    Linda Lee Tarver - Mid-Michigan - MI-GOP Ethnic Vice-Chair.  WTF is that?  A Party Official is in-the-tank and "Grassroots" for a specific candidate.  How the hell does that work?  And, when someone, anyone can explain why Linda is picking candidates, please, feel free to explain MI-GOP Holly Hughes, National Committeewoman being in-the-tank "I support Pete!" TARPstra.  No, I'm not leaving Saul off the hook on pushing Durant either.

    Wes Dilworth - Northern Michigan:  Perhaps the only on the up name listed.  Haven't thoroughly vetted him yet, so as far as I'm concerned Wes remains a definite maybe.

    Now, let's talk credibility.

    "...MIGOP vice-chairs over the course of the past year, and all of them agree that the tea party movement stays relevant so long as it stays credible."

    As if the Party Chairs have any room to talk.  Party Pot.  Meet TARPstra kettle.  Oh, you're married?  Ooops!  My mistake, please take no offense.

    Mr. Randy Bishop, thank you for opposing Pete TARPstra, and stick to your guns.  It's not easy being a target.

    Frankly, my bullsh!t meter just about melted on this nonsensical idea of resurrecting life to the Legendary Sofa.

    Ya, if we're willing to listen to him...  listen my ass!

    Glenn to the very end.

    If it's new it must be bad (none / 0) (#4)
    by Pogo on Thu Dec 29, 2011 at 09:53:15 PM EST
         Kevin, the point you raise regarding the state convention effort to change the Lieutenant Governor choice is an apt one. I remember sitting in that auditorium and seeing a lot of raw fuel all around, apparently enough to make a real difference and bring some changes. Unfortunately, it was pushing in all directions at once, consequently canceling itself out. At the time I was a minor participant in a TEA party, and assumed those in the leadership had communicated with each other, and done some planning and coordination - obviously not the case, as it turned out. If that had been done, what might be different today? In the last couple of years, the criticism of the TEA party movement is that it is just a motley collection of right-wing groups that are too disjointed to do anything productive.

         Now that, for the first time, there is a mutual effort among groups to unite in accomplishing something effective, it is coming under fire from various directions as being:

     A. A dark conspiracy by Hoekstra's enemies
     B. A bunch of fractious wannabees that won't accomplish anything
     C. An evil plot to destroy the TEA party movement (I didn't make that one up, it's out there)

    It would save time if the critics would settle on one theory.

         The criticism of the Indiana model is correct in that there isn't much there for Michigan to learn from. Indiana has only one clearly conservative candidate in the senate race, so there is nothing to dispute about the choice of candidate - they can go straight into campaign planning. Michigan is in a different category, in that several months will have to be spent on making the right choice of candidate, before campaign efforts can begin. The date of the straw poll was the subject of considerable discussion in November, some pushing for earlier, some for postponing it. There was concern expressed about acting before the filing deadline. You can find arguments either way. Since as TEA party members most of us are political amateurs, with experience primarily at grunt level door to door activity and outdoor events, we don't have money or political consultants to advise us on the professionally correct answer. The consensus was to hold the straw vote right before the presidential primary, with one of the factors being the MSM being present in the state then, and trying to take advantage of that for maximizing coverage to kick off the campaign. The choice can be criticized, but somebody had to put forward some plan, so we're going with the consensus one.

         As far as I'm aware, the criteria that the MI4CS endorsement will be based on is up to each individual group to decide. There is no top down policy being imposed. The only MI4CS connection with FreedomWorks is like ICaucus, in that they offered to hold off on their endorsements until MiC4S had made a choice of candidate (one of the factors advancing the straw poll date). Freedomworks offered information and support if requested, but they have no vote in the choice. They received some sharp criticism at the Nov. 12 meeting for some letter implying support for one candidate, and as a result have promised to stay neutral until after the MiC4S vote. (That's my recollection, anyway.)

         Regarding "...  only 55 of these groups are participating in the straw poll.": Initially, a large number of groups were invited and showed up at the Nov. 12 presentation. As time went on and people began communicating, there were complaints that there were cases of two people and a dog meeting at the local donut shop once a month, and using the internet to present themselves as a TEA party group. Since every group gets exactly two votes at the straw poll, that didn't sit well with groups that had, for instance, 700+ signed up members. Yes, it is a judgement call, but somebody has to make it. As more people passed information back and forth, again a consensus was reached. (And if it needs to be said, agreement is usually achieved only after considerable disputation.)

         On the January 14th MI4CS debate at CMU, not all of the filed republican candidates will be there. One suddenly discovered that he was opposed to the whole principle, after having participated up until last week. Another is hemming and hawing, I think looking for an excuse for not showing up. It's notable that those bailing out, both big and little fish, are the ones who are starting to conclude they have thin prospects of getting TEA party support.          

         Kevin, I noticed that you (or someone using your name) recently registered for the MiC4S private forum. Since you voluntarily chose to join that effort, I hope it is in the interest of contributing to it, and not sabotaging it. The idea of instigating a Democratic primary challenger might be a good one, why don't you propose it? I don't know if the Dems are too well organized to block that, but it's worth looking into.

         In the end, the choice for the Michigan TEA party movement comes down to - learn from past lessons, and try to communicate and coordinate efforts, or continue as before and push randomly in all directions at once. Which should it be?

    Randy Bishop Writes (none / 0) (#7)
    by JGillman on Sat Dec 31, 2011 at 10:46:45 AM EST
    To Cindy in support and with an another piece of info:

    Dear Cindy Gamrat and other fellow Patriots,

    In full disclosure and in an effort to provide full transparency,...I will no longer volunteer to participate in the MI4CS decision making process, effective immediately.  Please remove me from any future e-mails and phone conference calls regarding those committees that I have previously volunteered to work on.

    I totally support MI4CS completely, and will have my groups the Traverse City TEA Party Patriots and Northern Michigan Patriots, participate in both the Jan. 14th Candidate Forum and the Feb. 25th Straw Poll.  I will register the two (2) voting members from each group upon receiving your registration e-mail.

    However, as many folks in the TEA Party movement know, I endorsed Peter Konetchy back in February, 2011.  I met with him and his wife at a restaurant in Kalkaska, along with Charlevoix Republican County Chairman and former candidate for the 105th District State House - Tim Boyko, and political consultant Tony Cutler.

    After 3 hours of discussion, I decided to help Peter Konetchy and his candidacy to become our next U.S. Senator from Michigan.  I made my endorsement public on our groups' websites and posted it on Facebook, in order to give Peter some creditability among other TEA Party groups across the state.

    I believe in the mission statement and effort of MI4CS so much, that it's with a heavy heart that I can no longer support Peter Konetchy in anyway,...due to his blatant lack of respect for this MI4CS effort and (in my opinion) the TEA Party movement in general contained in his press release.

    Since Mr. Konetchy's press release stating he would not participate along with his other words,...I have made the decision to now FULLY support and endorse Gary Glenn for the U.S. Senate, and will volunteer to help his campaign.

    Like many others who are participating in MI4CS, who have already decided to support and volunteer for other candidates running in this race, I respect their decision to do both.  Additionally, I totally respect those TEA Party folks that are not participating in the MI4CS effort, and who are supporting and volunteering for their candidates.

    I now fully support and will volunteer for Gary Glenn's campaign in order to help him win the MI4CS Straw Poll and become their endorsed candidate.  With the support of those participating in MI4CS' effort Gary Glenn can win the Republican nomination in the August primary, and then go on to defeat Debbie Stabenow in the November general election.

    However, due to my total commitment to this MI4CS effort I will support their endorsed candidate,...even if it turns out not to be Gary Glenn.

    Please forward this e-mail to everyone and forward it to the media as a press release.  I have been contacted by the media numerous times for my personal comments about MI4CS and it has been misconstrued by many observing this effort, that I am "one of the organizers of MI4CS", which I am not and never have been.

    I simply stepped forward to volunteer like you and many other TEA Party folks, in order to UNITE behind a truly conservative candidate who believes in our Constitution as the basis to run our federal government with limited intrusions into our lives, less spending and free-market/private sector solutions to fix our State's and our Country's problems.

    I will continue to be involved in the TEA Party movement until I die,...and will try to motivate others to do the same!!!

    Respectfully submitted,

    Randy Bishop

    I have been asked to help (none / 0) (#14)
    by JGillman on Wed Jan 04, 2012 at 09:52:48 PM EST
    on technical matters.

    I am doing so.

    I see the entire effort at the very least as an opportunity to have true conservative angles vetted. Its a great informational tool, and Gamrat should be appreciated for her hard work and time bringing some of these events to the forefront.

    Think of it as an advisory panel.

    I do anyhow.

    Anyone of the candidates is a million times better than the meat puppet on substantive issues, the constitution, and frankly common sense.  I will wind up supporting one of them as anyone here will.

    The debates will self identify in my opinion, and we'll all be there on our own.

    When it is all said and done, its best if conservatives push for conservative values.

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