Michigan Republican Party

Back in the 1960s, there was a hilarious TV sitcom called Get Smart, which portrayed the adventures of the world’s most inept spy.

Maxwell Smart was a bumbler who talked into his not-so-secret shoe telephone, carried around a device called the cone of silence, and never really had a clue as to what was going on.

Well, the Cold War is long over, but if he were around today, Smart would clearly have a future in politics.

This week, we learned that the Snyder re-election campaign has evidently revived some version of the classic department of dirty tricks, tactics made most famous by another Richard, the late President Nixon.

The Michigan Republican Party now admits it sent two staffers into a Mark Schauer fundraising event wearing high-tech hidden camera glasses.

Democrats later got possession of the disc, apparently because the Republicans clumsily lost it. My understanding is that it shows the two paid staffers chowing down on appetizers and worrying that the people at the event were on to them. They apparently made small talk with Lisa Brown, the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, but not Schauer.

You might think Republicans would now be embarrassed.

But you’d be wrong.

State and national GOP chairs have now called on Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema to resign his position.

Agema stirred controversy after making anti-gay and anti-Muslim comments.

Late Friday, Agema issued a statement acknowledging “errors in judgment,” but says he won’t resign.

This has many people asking what Agema’s comments mean for Republicans – particularly for Muslim or gay members of the Republican Party.

Joining us now is Joe Sylvester, chair of the Michigan Log Cabin Republicans. Log Cabin Republicans are people who work within the party to push for equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Dave Agema served from 2006 to 2012 as a state representative in the Michigan Legislature. He hit his term limit and moved on to other things in 2012.

Now he represents Michigan as a member of the Republican National Committee. Many Republicans wish he weren't.

Some are naming names and calling for his ouster. Others aren’t calling him out by name but are “asking for more civility,” as MPRN’s Rick Pluta reported:


As a state Republican leader continues to roil his party with comments about gay people and Muslims, Gov. Rick Snyder used a Martin Luther King Day speech to call for more public civility.

“It’s disappointing that I had to make that call because of comments made by people out in the public,” he told a Martin Luther King Day lunch in Lansing. “And that just shows we need to continue this journey in terms of looking at equality and justice.”

The governor’s comments were yet another veiled reference to Michigan Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema.

MIGOP / Instagram

Gov. Rick Snyder put services for immigrants and seniors at the top of his to-do list for 2014 in his State of the State speech yesterday.

The governor also promised to extend pre-school to every child in the state that wants to attend, and trumpeted the state’s economic recovery as he prepares to seek a second term.

"We are reinventing Michigan," Snyder said. "Michigan is the comeback state."

Snyder noted that hiring is up, and more people are looking for work — although Michigan still has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and many families living in poverty.

But the governor says things are getting better and the state’s improved budget position and the prospect of a revenue surplus is evidence of that. He said much of that money — more than a billion dollars over the next three years — should be used on infrastructure, investments, and savings. But he also said taxpayers should get some of it back.

“There’s going to be some opportunity for tax relief,” Snyder said.

Gov. Rick Snyder

Gov. Rick Snyder delivers his fourth State of the State address tomorrow night. Zoe Clark and Rick Pluta, co-hosts of Michigan Radio’s It’s Just Politics, talk about what we can expect to hear in the governor’s address.

Listen to the full interview above. 

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Incensed Democrats and abortion rights advocates are vowing that Republican lawmakers overreached so much with new restrictions on abortion coverage in Michigan's public and private health insurance plans that it'll cost them in next elections.

A ballot drive to override the law is being considered. If enough signatures are collected, the statewide vote would coincide with November elections and keep the issue fresh in voters' minds.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republicans have taken no official steps to rebuke the kinds of anti-gay comments made recently by GOP National Committee member Dave Agema.

The party's meeting on Saturday in Lansing didn't deal with a measure proposed by western Michigan activist Jason Watts, submitted after the deadline for resolutions. It doesn't mention Agema but disavows the party of "demagogic rhetoric that is incendiary and unbecoming of civil discourse."

Everyone knows there’s a war between the parties going on right now in Congress and in Washington, a war that has shut down the national parks and large parts of the federal government.

But there’s also a war going on within the Republican Party, a war being fought on battlefields from Washington to Lansing to Canton and Grand Rapids. It’s a war for the party’s mind and soul.

Essentially, it’s a war between the Tea Party Republicans and the party’s more traditional conservatives, especially the business community. Right now, the Tea Party seems to be winning. For a while, that had the regular Republicans concerned. They know that if extremists are the face of the party, they can say goodbye to any hopes of recapturing the White House, and probably also the U.S. Senate.

Inside the Michigan Senate
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

This week in Michigan politics Christina Shockley and Jack Lessenberry discuss Medicaid expansion, Governor Rick Snyder's political status, and the Michigan Tea Party.

Five months ago, Michigan Republicans nearly unseated their state chairman, Bobby Schostak, at their state convention.

Schostak is a successful fundraiser and commercial real estate developer. Until recently, he would have been seen as a hard-core conservative. But he wasn’t hard-core enough for 48 percent of the delegates to their annual state convention.

Those delegates voted for Todd Courser, an accountant and tax attorney from Lapeer. Courser lost that election, but if you saw the public affairs show Off The Record this weekend, it was clear he believes fervently in his own righteousness, and means for his troops to take over the GOP.

There’s an odd story you might have missed from the Upper Peninsula. A member of the Michigan Republican state central committee is facing major felony charges in Wisconsin.

Various press accounts quote police as saying Douglas Sedenquist of Escanaba was arrested five months ago after his wife notified police that he was supposedly stalking her with a high-powered rifle and making suicide threats. His wife left him last year; she said he was physically abusing their daughters.

Police in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she now lives, arrested Sedenquist after, police say, he repeatedly refused their orders to put down the rifle or get out of his truck. Instead, he asked them to let him shoot himself. Eventually they were able to arrest him, and now he faces a variety of charges.

I have gone into this in some detail because I haven‘t yet told you the weirdest part about all this. Nobody, so far as I know, is demanding that he step down from his party leadership roles. Sedenquist, by the way, is also vice-chair of the Delta County GOP.

Gov. Snyder's negotiation style in question

Jun 6, 2013

It’s Thursday, the day we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

The state budget is on its way to Governor Snyder for his signature, while there is an investment of $65 million in early education, the Governor did not get three of his major priorities met. Medicaid expansion, transportation funding, and Common Core for K-12 education.

"He [Snyder] can't afford to sort of roll over all the time on the conservative agenda items, where he signs everything they want without getting them [conservatives] to agree to pass some of his high priority items," says Sikkema. 

Listen to the full interview above.

There were, in a way, two conferences taking place among the state’s business and political elite on Mackinac Island last week. One was a celebration of Michigan’s comeback from the darkest days of the great recession, and of the new business-friendly climate flourishing under Governor Rick Snyder.

Make no mistake about it: Richard Dale Snyder is the most business-oriented governor this state has had since World War II. That’s in large part because he is a businessman.

He speaks their language. During his closing remarks, the governor sounded like a motivational speaker sent out to fire up a sluggish sales force.  “What’s the role of government?” he asked, answering, “Government exists to give you great customer service!”

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

“The Donald” is coming to Oakland County.

The real estate mogul and television star is scheduled to speak today at the Lincoln Day Dinner at the Suburban Collection Showcase convention center in Novi.

Lincoln Day is an annual fundraising event for state and county Republican Party organizations. Tickets to the meal start at $750.

According to the Detroit Free Press:

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

  Who might be the Republicans' best hope of winning Michigan's Senate seat?

Republican strategist Dennis Lennox joined us today.

We asked him why a Republican hasn't jumped into the race yet and who their ideal candidate might be.

Listen to the full interview above.

Gary Johnson

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A federal appeals court has no problem with a Michigan law that bars a presidential candidate from running in the general election after losing in the primary for another political party.

The lawsuit was filed by the Libertarian Party after the secretary of state kept Gary Johnson off the ballot last fall. He'd lost earlier in 2012 as a candidate in Michigan's Republican Party primary.

A three-judge panel at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati said Wednesday that Michigan's law is constitutional.

The ruling affirms an earlier decision by Detroit federal Judge Paul Borman.

Tiberius Images / Flickr

Let's talk relationships - political relationships.

Governor Snyder wants $1.2 billion a year for rebuilding of Michigan roads. He has also proposed increased gas taxes and vehicle registration fees, which haven't gone over well with state Republicans.

He's also said he wants to expand Medicaid using money from the federal government under provisions in the Affordable Care Act, which hasn't been warmly received by Republicans either.

So where does this rift leave the Republican party, and what does it say about Governor Snyder and his leadership style?

Gary Heinlein reports for the Detroit News that "by a 1,370-132 margin" Republicans at their convention in Lansing yesterday approved a plan to change the way Michigan's electoral votes are tallied.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republicans are sticking with their party leader as the GOP tries to keep complete control of state government in 2014.

Bobby Schostak was narrowly re-elected chairman Saturday at Republicans' state convention in Lansing. He fended off a challenge from tea party enthusiast Todd Courser.

Michigan House Republicans release their 2013-2014 plan

Jan 30, 2013
Tim Martin / mlive.com

Earlier today, Michigan House Republicans announced their plan for  the 2013-2014 legislative session.

They call their plan, "Brighter Days Ahead: 2013-14 House Republican Action Plan for Hard-Working Michigan Taxpayers.

Speaker of the House John Bolger (R-Marshall) said this in their press release this morning:

"We are once again presenting the people we serve with a detailed, common-sense approach to resolving challenges that Michigan's hard-working men and women are facing,"

House Republicans say they plan on tackling the following issues:

States could make sweeping changes to Electoral College

Jan 22, 2013
At the Republican National Convention.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

In his commentary this morning, Michigan Radio’s Jack Lessenberry pointed to what he is calling a Republican plan to rig presidential election results.

Currently, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, all of a state’s Electoral College votes go to the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in that state.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Democrats and Republicans are doing everything they can to make sure as many of their fellow state residents as possible show up at the polls.

GOP spokeswoman Kelsey Knight says campaign staffers and volunteers are knocking on 200,000 doors and making 500,000 calls in this final week alone to encourage voters to show up. And to vote Republican, of course.

Democrats are doing the same, but they didn't provide specific numbers.

It's not clear what voter turnout will be like in the state, though.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Now that the primary is over, Kent County Republicans are working to get more people to rally behind their nominees.

Even Democrat-turned-Republican State Representative Roy Schmidt Schmidt was among the GOP nominees at a unity rally in Grand Rapids Wednesday night.

He narrowly defeated a write-in candidate who decided to challenge Schmidt in the wake of a criminal investigation into Schmidt's party switch. No charges were brought in the case. However, the Secretary of State's office is still investigating allegations Schmidt violated campaign finance laws.

Jase Bolger, the Speaker of Michigan’s House of Representatives, secretly conspired with State Representative Roy Schmidt of Grand Rapids to perpetrate a fraud on the people.

They did that by trying to rig an election.

That’s the conclusion of Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth, who released a stunning report yesterday. The prosecutor, like those two men, is a member of the Republican Party. Except that Forsyth indicated that as a Republican, he is embarrassed.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Kent County Prosecutor says a state representative who switched political parties minutes before an election filing deadline may have committed election fraud. But the review concludes Democrat-turned-Republican Roy Schmidt did not do anything criminal.

You can view the full report here.

The prosecutor’s investigation shows Roy Schmidt (R-Grand Rapids) worked with House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall) to switch parties and run as a Republican.

For the last fifteen months, Republicans have controlled everything in sight in Lansing -- the House, the Senate, the governor’s office and the Supreme Court.

They have the majorities to pass essentially anything they want, and even if something is constitutionally controversial, they are secure in the knowledge that it’s almost certain that the disgracefully partisan Michigan Supreme Court will rule in their favor.

The Republican-led legislature approved a measure that would prohibit schools from automatically deducting union dues from the paychecks of school employees last week.

Those in support of the measure say it puts more money in the pockets of employees who can then choose to write a check to their union. Opponents say it’s another attempt at union busting.

David Hecker, President of the American Federation of Teachers in Michigan spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Though the state's primary was almost a week ago, the Rick Santorum campaign is continuing to dispute the primary's results. The campaign has taken their fight over the way the Michigan Republican Party apportioned two of the state's at-large delegates to the Republican National Committee.

The campaign is also organizing a rally to be held later today in front of the Michigan Republican headquarters in Lansing. Santorum supporters will call on Michigan GOP leaders to reconsider their decision to award both the party’s statewide delegates to Mitt Romney.

They say party leaders changed the rules to avoid awarding one apiece to Romney and Santorum, who ran a close second in last week’s Michigan primary and won half of the state’s congressional districts.

Last week, after the committee voted in favor of giving the two at-large delegates to Romney, Mike Cox, the state's former Attorney General - and Romney supporter - called the decision, "kind of like third world voting."

A state Republican spokesman says that decision is now in the hands of the national GOP and calls the rally a needless distraction from the focus on helping Republicans win in November.

We took a closer look at the controversy over so-called "dele-gate" on Friday. You can take a listen at the link above.

Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign has formally asked the Republican National Committee to investigate the actions of Michigan GOP leaders following Tuesday’s presidential primary.

The Santorum campaign delivered a letter to the Republican National Committee requesting the inquiry.

Santorum says it appears supporters of Mitt Romney engineered a rule-change after Tuesday’s vote to ensure Romney got more delegates than he deserved following a very-thin victory in the overall Republican primary vote.

The letter offers a list of six questions that were raised concerning how the Michigan Republicans decided to award 16 delegates to Romney and 14 to Santorum.

The letter says the issue is not who should get a delegate, but the openness and transparency of the process.

Michigan Republican leaders say the rules were not changed after the fact, but the party did a poor job of explaining its plan on how delegates would be allocated.