What can we learn from the 2016 primary elections? This article explains what the winning candidates had in common. I wrote a similar article in 2014.
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 Beth Griffin, Tommy Brann, Shane Hernandez, Ben Frederick, and Scott VanSingel had substantial establishment support.
Be the establishment One answer to this is to become the establishment. Shane Hernandez is a former county party chairman. It takes time to build political connections, but it pays off eventually.
Experience counts Elected experience is valuable for winning candidates. Bob Howey, Steve Marino, Julie Alexander, Beth Griffin, Ben Frederick, Roger Hauck, and Curt VanderWall have all been elected to local office.
Incumbency Matters All incumbents won renomination. Beating an incumbent in a primary is very hard. The only times a conservative challenger 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. Tom Casperson, Jason Allen, Tony Forlini, and (to a lesser extent) Phil Pavlov had bad voting records that contributed to losing their congressional bids.
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. John Reilly lost a primary challenge in 2014, but won an open seat this time.
Don't Ignore Life Every candidate who won a Republican primary was endorsed by Michigan Right to Life (either solely or jointly).
Don't split the vote Conservatives did much better this year than in 2014. Only in district 30 did a more conservative candidate likely lose due to vote splitting. Conservatives may have benefited from splits in the establishment in districts 20 and 72.
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.
Bob Howey 57K
Steve Marino 69K
John Reilly 46K
Julie Alexander 86K
Beth Griffin 81K
Tommy Brann 77K
Shane Hernandez 35K
Ben Frederick 101K
Scott VanSingel 49K
The candidate who raised the most money won in 19 of 26 primaries in open Republican seats (three others were very close seconds). I have written before that the minimum amount needed to be a credible candidate is $30,000. This year, there were three open Republican seats where no Republican raised that much (79, 99, 108), though all those winners were over $20,000. Only two winners raised less than $20,000. Jeff Noble raised 16K, had Tea Party support and the endorsement of Pat Colbeck, and pulled the upset in district 20.
Exceptions are exceptional There is one huge exception to the above points. Steven Johnson, an unemployed 25-year-old military veteran and Christian constitutional conservative won district 72 with 30% in a five candidate field. He raised only 6K (most from him and his parents) yet beat two well-funded candidates and two elected officials. This mirrors Aaron Miller's similarly unlikely win in 2014. 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.
Friday, August 05, 2016
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
1 (R) Bergman 39 Casperson 32 Allen 28
Great win for a good conservative over two moderate legislators. Allen won only Grand Traverse and Leelanau. Casperson won at least 52% in every county in his district, and at most 35% in all counties outside it. Bergman was first or second in every county.
(D) Johnson 72 Cannon 28
This will be an interesting race in the fall.
10 (R) Mitchell 38, Pavlov 28, Sanborn 16, Forlini 10, VanAssche 8
Mitchell's anti-tax advocacy was money well spent. Pavlov only won Huron and St. Clair.
13 (D) Conyers 60 Winfrey 40
Conyers will only leave on a stretcher.
4 (D) Conyers 37 Durhal 27 Score one for name recognition.
Michigan State House:
1 (D) Banks 45 Sossi 35 Banks will only leave in handcuffs.
20 Noble 40 Roosen 38 Tea Party wins with Colbeck endorsement.
23 Howey wins 77-14
24 Marino wins 80-17
30 Farrington 40 Shallal 39 (54 votes)
32 Hornberger 40 Schmina 33
33 Yaroch 37 Carl 28
46 Reilly beats Kent 31 votes. Big win for Tea Party, barring recount.
57 Kahle 63 Cottrell 29
64 Alexander 42 Tripp 30
66 Griffin 61 Nilson 31 Griffin is Tea Party with establishment support.
70 Lower 45 Van Kleeck 20
72 Johnson 30 Noto 23
77 Brann 90 Murin 10
79 LaSata 54 Arnt 30 At least Pscholka's guy didn't win.
83 Hernandez 47 Muxlow 31 Big win for Tea Party candidate with good fundraising and endorsements.
85 Frederick 66 Aue 23 Good candidate.
86 Albert 31 Johnson 29 Henry 23
89 Lilly 60 Stille 32
97 Wentworth 42 Link 24
99 Hauck 65 Stressman 35
100 VanSingel 76 Wilterink 16
101 VanderWall 58 Walter 28
102 Hoitenga 34 Langworthy 28 Langworthy has been 2nd three times (04, 10, 16).
103 Rendon 81 Kumar 19 Good since Kumar faces sex crime charges.
104 Inman 60 Gillman 40 Closest R primary challenge.
106 (R) Allor 37 Krawczak 35
(D) Kennedy 51 Kieliszewski 49 Preferred D candidate loses.
107 Chatfield 73 Twardy 27
108 (R) LaFave 44 Arcand 32
(D) Celello 58 Dziedzic 42 The top D recruit wins an unimpressive victory.
All incumbents won. The establishment and top fundraisers won most races. The Tea Party candidates with the best fundraising and endorsements (Noble, Reilly, Hernandez) won.
Prosecutor (D) Getting 66 Payne 34 Payne won the Northside.
Sheriff (R) Heppler 68 Munn 32 (D) Fuller 76 Swafford 24
Treasurer (D) Sahu 51 Jackson 49
4 (D) Seals 66 Thompson 34
6 (R) Kendall 39 Carahaly 35 Brooks 26 Kendall worked hard here.
9 (R) Shugars 76 Kovacik 24
Alamo Supervisor: Hyet 69 Conti 31
(R) Bloomfield 64 White 36
(R) Bloomfield 64 White 36
(D) Thompson 64 Cherry 36
Comstock trustees: (R) Amos, Beister, Austin, McIver win
Cooper Supervisor: Sorenson 69 Rakow 31
Kalamazoo Township Clerk: Miller 43 Goodacre 33 Thall 24 Incumbent last.
Oshtemo Treasurer: Culp 61 Taylor 39 Haha!
No word on R write-ins yet.
Pavilion Supervisor: White 79 Randles 21
Richland Supervisor: Harma 46 Chalker 40 Byrne 15
Schoolcraft Supervisor: Ulsh 58 McMillan 29 Allen 13
Texas Supervisor: Hinkle 57 VanderRoest 43
Texas Treasurer: Cutting 50 Roberts 50 (Tie! Recount!)
Texas trustees: Mazer, Brown, Boven, Loeks win.