Sunday, November 20, 2022

The Michigan GOP is a Disaster

The 2022 election was a calamity for Michigan Republicans.  This was partly due to the national environment, but there were major blunders by both the GOP establishment and grassroots.

The problems began with the governor's race.  Surprisingly, no top Republican ran for governor.  The GOP actually has a decent bench, but most seem unwilling to run for any race that is less than a sure thing.  There are former statewide office holders (Miller, Cox, Land, Schuette, Johnson), congressmen (Hoekstra, Camp, Rogers, Trott, Huizenga, Moolenaar, McClain), and state senators, almost all of whom would have been better than anyone who ran this year.

The nominal front-runner was former Detroit police chief James Craig, but he seemed unwilling to actually campaign and was unable to secure his own campaign launch against protesters.  Without a strong front-runner, a bunch of lightweights, nuts, and random rich dudes entered the race, resulting in an absurd 10-candidate field.

Anyone running for governor needs a large number of signatures, and voters are not allowed to sign for more than one candidate.  It was obviously impossible for all the candidates to get legitimate signatures, and many turned to crooked signature collection firms, who took their money in exchange for fake signatures.  Five of the ten candidates were disqualified, including Craig and self-proclaimed "quality guru" Perry Johnson.  Shady political consultant John Yob had the non-distinction of working for both Craig and Johnson while failing to get either of them on the ballot.

Most of the remaining five candidates spent much of the primary seeking Donald Trump's endorsement.  This led to them embracing the Stop the Steal election conspiracies, which were poison in the general election.  The best of the bunch was probably Tudor Dixon, who eventually got support from both Trump and the DeVos family, and won the primary.  It isn't clear why rich car dealer Kevin Rinke never caught on with major party insiders.  The fact that January 6 rioter Ryan Kelley, who was arrested mid-campaign, was taken seriously as a candidate says a lot about how out of touch with reality some primary voters were.

After winning the primary in August, Dixon was broke.  Somehow, she was never able to turn grassroots anger at Governor Whitmer into substantial fundraising.  Major funders on the right didn't see her as viable, and mostly avoided donating to her.  Meanwhile, Whitmer had been raising tens of millions of dollars.  She used it to hammer Dixon on abortion and Stop the Steal.  Dixon was mostly unable to respond, and her campaign had no clear message.  A few late polls showed the race close, but this turned out to be a mirage, and Dixon lost by over 10%.

Meanwhile, the AG and SOS nominees were selected by GOP precinct delegates, unofficially at an endorsement convention in April and officially at a convention in August.  Traditionally, GOP delegates are a good mix of establishment Republicans and grassroots activists who carefully vetted candidates and had a history of picking strong nominees.  Over the past few years, however, these positions have increasingly been taken by Trump-loving MAGA types who knew little about what it takes to win a general election.

Most of these activists embraced 2020 election conspiracies that inspired the Stop the Steal movement.  These lies have been repeatedly been debunked, both by me and by serious Republican elected officials.  However, there was no reasoning with the MAGA crowd, who believed Trump and refused to listen to evidence to the contrary.

Trump endorsed the most fringe candidates for both AG and SOS.  For AG, he went with Matt DePerno, a trail lawyer of no distinction.  DePerno has been involved in many ethical controversies, and is under criminal investigation related to the Stop the Steal investigation of voting machines.  He had no history of involvement with the conservative movement prior to the Stop the Steal movement.  He raised a bunch of money from gullible MAGA voters, and of course didn't Stop the Steal.

For SOS, Trump endorsed Kristina Karamo, a low-level GOP activist who teaches a "welcome to college" class at a community college.  She had absolutely no qualifications for running elections.  It appears that Karamo's website was never updated after the endorsement convention.  It features endorsements from Trump, General Flynn, and a bunch of R county chairs and precinct delegates.  Karamo appeared to limit her campaign to Republicans, ignoring swing voters.  She refused to meet with the (mildly conservative) Detroit News, which later endorsed her opponent.  She also filed a lawsuit the week before the election to halt the count of Detroit absentee ballots, which was laughed out of court.  Karamo lost by almost 14%.

The trouble continued in the 3rd congressional district, where Trump endorsed John Gibbs over Peter Meijer, who had voted for impeachment.  Gibbs had no ties to the district, and had made a bunch of impolitic statements that played poorly in a district that was gerrymandered to favor democrats.  The other R candidates for congress in competitive seats performed respectably.  John James won a narrow victory, Tom Barrett did as well as could be expected, and Paul Junge was a respectable candidate in a district where no top R candidates ran.

The legislative caucuses seemed to do reasonably well with the hand they were dealt.  The redistricting commission gerrymandered the maps to help the democrats, but even with the disaster at the top of the ticket, dems only won one seat more than 50% in both chambers.  When there is a close loss, it is easy to speculate that another candidate would have done better.  However, none of the candidates in competitive seats were obvious disasters.

Speaking of the  redistricting commission, the GOP failed to stop it from passing in 2018, and seemed to not even try.  Its effort to influence the commission was unfocused, mostly just telling activists to give whatever opinion they wanted.  Meanwhile, the dems gave their activists clear talking points that were repeated again and again.  Fixing the commission should be a top goal of the GOP in the future.

That brings us to the Michigan GOP itself.  The chair is currently Ron Weiser, a businessman who has led the party in the 2010, 2018, and 2022 cycles.  Weiser has had some success at fundraising (particularly when he writes the checks himself) but by now it seems clear that he isn't a good leader.  Back in 2010, the August convention overseen by Weiser was a fiasco, as the party botching the credentialing process led to an hour-long line half way around the Breslin Center.  The vice-chair of the Michigan GOP is Meshawn Maddock, the wife of MAGA state rep Matt Maddock.  Her main contribution seems to be to occasionally make inflammatory comments.

While the election results in 2010 were excellent, the same can't be said for 2018 or 2022.  It can be difficult to evaluate the performance of a state party, since there are many factors other than its actions that contribute to victory or defeat.  One area where the state party absolutely be involved is vetting candidates.  In a 2022 special election, the GOP nominated Robert Regan, who had expressed many controversial opinions, including that the war in Ukraine wasn't real.  This came out shortly after the primary, presumably due to democrat opposition research.  Regan lost an otherwise safe seat, and made it harder for Republicans to win the redrawn district in November.  While the Michigan GOP should not attempt to pick a winner in every race, it should vet candidates and attempt to expose any crooks or cranks before they lose any more winnable seats.

The Michigan GOP has a choice.  It could continue to embrace conspiracy nonsense and use MAGA messaging that only speaks to the activist base.  Or it can face reality and appeal to winnable voters with a conservative platform that speaks to their concerns.  A test of which direction the party will choose will come at the next Michigan GOP convention in February, which will elect the new party leadership.  Matt DePerno is already running for Michigan GOP chair, and James Craig and Tudor Dixon are considering the race.  Someone better is needed to turn the party around.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Michigan 2022 Election Results

The candidate names and percentages were copied from a post by Republican Michigander

Governor: Whitmer 54.47%, Dixon 43.94% For comparison, Whitmer won by 9.5% in 2018.  In retrospect, this was never close.  Dixon, tried, but she was a weak candidate. 
SOS: Benson 55.86%, Karamo 41.93% Karamo was a disaster. 
Attorney General: Nessel 53.15%, DePerno 44.55% Nessel was the weakest of the three D incumbents.

Congress.  The congressional delegation will be 6R, 7D.  The current delegation is 7R, 7D.  A gerrymandered map helped Ds win districts 3 and 8.

1. 60-37 for Jack Bergman 
2. 64-34 for John Moolenaar 
3. John Gibbs 41.94% Hillary Scholten 54.84% This seat was gerrymandered to elect a D.  Gibbs was a very weak candidate who won thanks to Trump's endorsement.  Peter Meijer might have kept it close, but it still would have been tough. 
4. Bill Huizenga 54.59% Joseph Alfonso 42.23% 
5. 63-35 for Tim Walberg 
6. 34-66 for Debbie Dingell 
7. Tom Barrett 46.38% Elissa Slotkin 51.67% Barrett ran a good campaign, but it wasn't enough to overcome the drag at the top of the ticket. 
8. Paul Junge 42.83% Dan Kildee 53.09% This is still a D district, though moving right. 
9. 64-33 for Lisa McClain 
10. John James 48.80% Carl Marlinga 48.31% This was unexpectedly tight, perhaps due to infighting in Macomb County. 
11. 39-61 for Haley Stevens 
12. 26-71 for Rashida Tlaib 
13. 24-71 for Shri Thanedar 

State Senate.  The senate will be 18R, 20D.  This is the first D majority since 1983.  The current delegation is 22-16.  A gerrymandered map helped Ds win extra districts in Lansing, Ann Arbor, and the tri-cities areas.

4. Houston James 44.66% Darrin Camilerri 55.34%  Downriver may realign some day, but not yet.
9. Mike Webber 50.35%, Padma Kuppa 49.65% (795 vote margin) Finally, a close win.
11. Mike MacDonald 47.32% Veronica Klinefelt 52.68% Loss in a gerrymandered district.
12. Pam Hornberger 49.87% Kevin Hertel 50.13% (313 vote margin) Surprise loss in a district won by Trump.
13. Jason Rhines 42.83% Rosemary Bayer 57.17%
14. Tim Golding 44.11% Sue Shink 55.89%
28. Daylen Howard 41.95% Sam Singh 55.81%
30. Mark Huizenga 49.19%, David LaGrand 48.87% (405 vote margin)  Close win in Grand Rapids, which is trending D.
32. Jon Bumstead 52.83%, Terry Sabo 47.17%
35. Annette Glenn 46.63% Kristin McDonald Rivet 53.37%  Tough loss in a gerrymandered district.
37. John Damoose 55.33%, Barbara Conley 42.94% 

State House.  The house will be 54R, 56D.  This is the first D majority since 2010.  In 2020, the elected delegation was 58R, 52D.  A gerrymandered map helped Ds win extra districts in Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Grand Rapids.

20. Albert Mansour 43.36% Noah Arbit 56.64% 
21. David Staudt 42.27% Kelly Breen 56.43%
22. Cathryn Neracher 45.75% Matt Kolezar 54.25%
27. Bob Howey 49.22% Jamie Churches 50.78% (640 vote margin)
28. Jamie Thompson 50.99%, Robert Kull 49.01% (745 vote margin)
29. James DeSana 51.48%, Alex Garza 48.52% This was the only defeat of a D incumbent.
31. Dale Biniecki 47.74% Reggie Miller 52.26%
The four Wayne/Monroe districts (27, 28, 29, 31) split 2R, 2D.  The attempted gerrymander didn't completely work here.
38. Kevin Whiteford 49.48% Joey Andrews 50.52% (398 vote margin)  Whiteford overperformed, but the absurd lakeshore gerrymander did its job.
40. Kelly Sackett 41.37% Christine Morse 58.63% Kalamazoo's suburbs continue to move left.
42. Matt Hall 54.99% Justin Mendoza 45.01%  Hall will be the house minority leader.
44. Dave Morgan 47.75% Jim Haadsma 52.25%  A third loss for Morgan, who got 48-49% in the previous two elections.  Perhaps Rs should run a different candidate here?
46. Kathy Schmaltz 54.37% Maurice Imhoff 45.63%  Imhoff was disowned by the Ds, but still was competitive.
48. Jason Woolford 45.80% Jennifer Conlin 53.08% Weak candidate in a swing district.
49. Ann Bollin 55.78%, Christina Kafkakis 44.22%
51. Matt Maddock 57.94%, Sarah May Seward 42.06%
54. Donni Steele 51.17% Shadia Martini 48.83% Rs had the right candidate in a district drawn well for the GOP.
55. Mark Tisdel 51.80% Patricia Bernard 48.20%
56. Mark Gunn 42.07% Sharon MacDonell 57.93%
57. Thomas Kuhn 52.64% Aisha Farooqi 47.36% 
58. Michelle Smith 48.67% Nate Shannon 51.33% Smith should try again here.
61. Mike Aiello 47.98% Denise Mentzer 52.02% This area is moving right.
62. Alicia St Germaine 53.42% Michael Brooks 46.58% 
68. David Martin 54.73% Cheri Hardmon 45.27% Nice margin in a district that would have been close to safe D a decade ago.
69. Jesse Couch 41.04% Jasper Martus 56.31% Surprisingly close in a district that is moving right.
71. Brian BeGole 57.74% Mark Zacharda 42.26%
73. Norm Shinkle 42.67% Julie Brixie 57.33%
76. Jeremy Whittum 44.78% Angela Witwer 55.22%  Whittum barely raised any money.
80. Jeffrey Johnson 43.70% Phil Skaggs 56.30%
81. Lynn Afendoulis 44.33% Rachel Hood 55.67%
83. Lisa DeKryger 44.64% John Fitzgerald 52.76%
84. Mike Malinowski 44.45% Carol Glanville 55.55%
The Grand Rapids area is gerrymandered to have 5 D districts, instead of the 2-3 D districts a fair map would have.  Note that the R percentages in 80, 81, 83, and 84 are all 43-44%--drawn to be just out of reach.
86. Nancy DeBoer 56.19% Larry Jackson 43.81%
88. Greg VanWoerkom 56.17% Christine Baker 41.87%
92. Jerry Neyer 55.49% Anthony Feig 42.45%
96. Timothy Beson 55.32% Kim Coonan 44.68%
103. Jack O’Malley 48.47% Betsy Coffia 49.84%  (765 vote margin)  This was the only loss by an R incumbent.  The seat was gerrymandered to elect a D.
107. Neal Friske 56.59% Jodi Decker 43.41%
109. Melody Wagner 47.02% Jenn Hill 52.98% This district is drifting right, but not quite there yet.  Considering this is Wagner's fourth loss, perhaps a new candidate would help.

Supreme Court:  34% Bernstein (D), 24% Zahra (R), 22% Bolden (D), 13% Hudson  The two incumbents win reelection.  Ds hold a 4-3 majority on the court.
State Board of Education:  Ds took both slots, with a 74K vote margin between the second and third candidates.
University of Michigan:  Ds took both slots, with a 52K vote margin between the second and third candidates.
Michigan State:  Ds took both slots, with a 11K vote margin between the second and third candidates.
Wayne State:  Ds took both slots, with a 64K vote margin between the second and third candidates.

My ratings turned out to be pretty accurate, though slightly too R.  Every race I had at safe for a party was won by that party.  The only lean race I missed was senate 12. For congress, the tossups had margins of -5 and -10.  For senate, the tossups had margins of -5 and -7.  The lean Ds had margins of -10 to -14, and the lean Rs had margins of -0.3 to 6.
Rs lost all tossups except house 28 and 29.  My state house tossups had margins from -11 to 3.  My lean R races had margins from 2 to 13.  My lean D races had margins from -4 to -17.  The closest margins in race I had at safe were 12 (senate 37) and 10 (house 42).  My lean ratings for Congress had margins of 6, 16, 3.6.