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Michigan Republican Party

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Thursday is the day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and senior policy fellow at Public Sector Consultants, and Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics.

Today we talk about the challenges facing Republicans in the Legislature as they figure out how to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender rights in the state.

Here’s our conversation:


Both major political parties have their state conventions this week. Republicans are meeting in Novi; Democrats in Lansing.

There’s always an element of the high school reunion about these conventions; people, including the press, look forward to them in part because they get to see old friends.

However, there are also squabbles.

Most of this year’s focus has been on the Republican gathering, where Tea Party insurgents are attempting to throw Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley off the ticket.

Democrats, however, have their own struggle behind the scenes.

In case you are new to this, these conventions actually nominate most of each party’s candidates for statewide office.

Michigan Legislature
Michigan Municipal League

It looks likely there will be more Tea Party Republicans in the Legislature next year. And one of the likely new tea partiers in the state House says they may want one of their own to be the new Republican leader.

Todd Courser won the GOP primary in a very Republican-leaning seat. That means he’s probably likely headed to Lansing next year. And he says Tea Partiers in the Legislature will be looking for something different in the new House leadership team.

“What I would like to see is a vocal conservative voice that is willing to stand, really, and make sure that we’re moving legislation forward that actually meets the criteria of being conservative, and fits the platform of the party,” says Courser.

Courser was on the Michigan Public Television show Off The Record.

He says larger budgets, the Medicaid expansion, and the Common Core curriculum standards don’t fit that definition. He says the freshman Tea Party class in the state House might put forward one of its members as a candidate for House Republican leader for the coming session of the Legislature.  

They used to say that the definition of a recession was when your neighbor lost his job, and a depression was when you lost yours.

Well, after this week’s monumental Detroit-area rainstorm and flood, we now have a new definition for our dictionary of popular economics. You can say that wasteful government spending is when Washington or Lansing helps someone else.

Proper allocation of scarce resources is when they help -- you.

That may sound like a joke, but all too many people subconsciously feel that way.

You need only drive through the streets of communities like blue-collar Warren and more affluent Huntington Woods to get a sense of the scope of this week’s destruction.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts has called on Washington for assistance, saying “if the federal government can help flood-damaged communities in various countries, I think they can help flood damage in the city of Warren.”

Good luck with that.

Cue the James Bond theme as we take up electoral espionage. We’re talking campaign black ops. Political spying.

We learned this week that Republicans here in Michigan sent two young operatives equipped with a tiny video camera in a pair of glasses to infiltrate a Mark Schauer for Governor campaign event -- looking for whatever they might find. And what did they get? Found out.

Our ace operatives bungled the job. Dropped the disc with the video where it was found by Democrats. Who, then, made it public, including their brief conversation with Dem lieutenant governor candidate Lisa Brown.

Republicans didn’t deny the operatives were theirs.

Democrats and the Schauer campaign cried foul calling it sneaky, dirty tricks. They got some newspaper headlines. Effective messaging helped along by the fact that it fit did neatly into a narrative courtesy of some missteps -- or what seemed to be missteps -- by Governor Rick Snyder’s campaign.

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.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Over the weekend, Michigan Republicans chose a new member of the Republican National Committee to take the seat vacated when Terri Lynn Land stepped down to run for Carl Levin's Senate seat. 

The new member is someone with quite a Michigan-centric political pedigree.

Ronna Romney McDaniel is Mitt Romney's niece, and the granddaughter of Michigan's 43rd governor, George Romney. 

What does her election mean for Michigan's profile on the Republican National Committee? 

We're joined by Michigan Public Radio Network Lansing Bureau Chief, Rick Pluta. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Republican officials have chosen the niece of GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to replace Terri Lynn Land on the party's national committee.

Ronna Romney McDaniel was elected Saturday morning during a meeting of the 113-member Michigan Republican Party State Central Committee. McDaniel is the daughter of Ronna Romney, who also served on the Republican National Committee.

Land, Michigan's former secretary of state, resigned last month to focus on her run for the U.S. Senate. Her likely Democratic opponent is U.S. Rep. Gary Peters.

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:

michigan.gov

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
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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."

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The Republican Party wants Detroit to know it cares. The GOP is hoping to increase its presence in the city where Barack Obama grabbed 97.5% of the vote in 2012.

And, how is the GOP going to reach out to Detroiters? By sending in Senator Rand Paul, tea party senator from Kentucky, to headline the opening of the new GOP outreach center, which is named "The African-American Engagement Office."

This has at least one Republican stalwart cringing. Dennis Lennox, GOP strategist and columnist at the Morning Sun, joined us today.

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

In a few weeks, a U.S. District judge will hold a hearing on a Michigan case that challenges the state's constitutional ban on gay marriage. On today's show: we explored the implications the case could have in Michigan and across the nation.

Also on today's show, Michigan wines are really making a name for themselves outside of the state. We talked to a connoisseur who isn't the least bit surprised by that news. And, according to a new report, lobbyist spending on free lunches for legislators has gone up. We spoke to Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network to see what else they are spending on. Also, The Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference was this past weekend. It's Just Politics co-hosts Rick Pluta and Zoe Clark joined us to talk about what happened there.

SteveBurt1947 / Flickr

The co-hosts of It’s Just Politics were hanging out with lots of Republicans this weekend - around 1,500, in case you were wondering. 

Rick Pluta, Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and our own political junkie here at Michigan Radio, Zoe Clark joined us today to talk about what they learned at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference that took place over the weekend.

Listen to the full interview above.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Calley wins straw poll to be Snyder's running mate again in 2014

"Kentucky Senator Rand Paul won a presidential straw poll of Republicans attending a party conference this past weekend on Mackinac Island. New Jersey Governor Chris Christy came in second. Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley easily won the straw poll to be Governor Rick Snyder’s running mate again in 2014," Rick Pluta reports.

Government shutdown could affect Michigan's poor

"A federal government shutdown could have a big effect in Michigan, especially for many of the state’s most vulnerable. John Nixon is Michigan’s state budget director. He says if the federal government does shut down starting October First the state will have trouble finding money to pay for food assistance Medicaid and other programs for the poor," Steve Carmody reports

14 Michigan universities to benefit as Wayne State forfeits state funding

"Wayne State University's decision to raise tuition at a rate above a cap for performance funding set by the state Legislature is benefiting Michigan's other public universities. State Budget Director John Nixon formally notified the Detroit school earlier this month that it was forfeiting $534,700 in performance funding because of the 8.9 percent increase. The money has been divided among the state's other 14 public universities," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

It’s Thursday. The day we talk Michigan politics with Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants and Susan Demas, columnist for MLIVE.com

This week, a bill that would require welfare recipients to do some kind of community service in order to get cash assistance or a welfare check passed in the Senate.  And another bill related to drug testing and welfare benefits cleared the state House Commerce Committee.

Then, the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference kicks off this weekend with nationally recognized guests including three potential presidential candidates set to speak there. They are Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. 

Listen to the full interview above.

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.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Tea Party activists are threatening to put up primary challengers against Republican lawmakers who vote to expand Medicaid in Michigan.

The bill would add hundreds of thousands of Michiganders to the Medicaid rolls under the federal healthcare law.

The legislation cleared the state House last week. The state Senate is likely to take up the legislation this week.

Tea Party groups claim it would be the biggest expansion of state government in more than four decades.  They say Republican votes in favor of the bill warrant a primary challenge next year.

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.

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