bing goei

Michigan GOP / gophouse.com

The Grand Rapids lawmaker who caused a scandal by switching political parties earlier this year will not return to Lansing. State Representative Roy Schmidt was defeated by his Democratic Party challenger, and political newcomer, Winnie Brinks.

“This wasn’t something I was planning, it was something people asked me to do (following Schmidt’s party switch).  I’m really excited about this opportunity to serve and to apply the skills I’ve learned in the last twenty years working in schools and non-profits to helping people in a more systematic way,” Brinks said.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

One of the most unusual political races this election is playing out in Grand Rapids. It’s the story, the saga that is the race for the 76th State House seat.

Back in May, there was a Democratic lawmaker who wanted to become a Republican. Switching political parties is not unheard of in Michigan, although it hasn’t happened since the 1990s.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The race to become the next state representative for Grand Rapids’ 76th District is getting even weirder. It’s now a four-way race between Democrat-turned-Republican Roy Schmidt, political newcomer Winnie Brinks for the Democrats, independent candidate Keith Allard and now a write-in candidate Bing Goei.

Goei made the announcement today. His write-in campaign to unseat Roy Schmidt in the Republican primary did surprisingly well. But Schmidt managed to hang on to the GOP nomination by a very slim margin.

Now Goei says people are begging him to run in the November election anyway.

“When people call on me I have this crazy thing about responding to them,” Goei said.

He admits his odds are not so good.

“If I understand history correct, that if (insert laughs from Goei and his supporters) well, when I win that it will be the first write-in candidate who has won a state house of representative position,” Goei said.

But pressed on this issue by a reporter Goei insisted his data shows his is a “very winnable campaign”.

courtesy photo

A Grand Rapids business owner will challenge a party-switching state representative in the Republican primary on August 7th.

Bing Goei made the announcement at the headquarters of his floral business Friday morning.

Dustin Dwyer

In many ways, the headquarters for Eastern Floral in Grand Rapids, Mich. is like a factory. It’s in an old building with brick walls. The floor is smooth, cold concrete. A noisy printer rattles off new orders.

But of course, it smells amazing in here. Designers stand at long wooden tables, primping and pruning flowers. Red tulips. White daisies. Yellow roses. And just about any other flower you can imagine.

Bing Goei, the owner, says this work is more like artistry.

“I think you have to be born with that.” he says. “I was not. I admit it.”

Goei says this with a laugh.

But he was born with something else that turned out to be its own asset. He was born with a foreign birth certificate. His parents were Chinese. He was born in Indonesia, then moved to the Netherlands. From there, they moved to Grand Rapids, like a lot of Dutch people before them. Except, they have a Chinese name.

And like many of those immigrants before him, Goei worked hard. He started in the flower business in high school. Now, Eastern Floral has seven locations, about 60 year-round employees – twice that around Valentine’s Day – and the company has over $5 million in annual revenue.

Goei says being an immigrant, and being an entrepreneur, there’s a connection there.

“Almost every immigrant that comes to this country has come because they see America as that land of opportunity,” he says. “So immediately, their drive is to fulfill that dream.”

The data on this backs Goei up.

The Kauffman Foundation reports that immigrants are twice as likely as people born in America to start a business.

Richard Herman is an immigration attorney in Cleveland. Herman and Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Robert Smith wrote a book called Immigration, Inc.