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Where politics and faith dance in the shadow of the windmill.

What’s that in Bing’s eye?

Bing Goei’s announcement the other day that he would have a write in campaign for the 76th state house seat, the one fouled by Roy Schmidt, is certainly a move that challenges wisdom.

Perhaps his business is doing really, really well and he has money to cast around. Perhaps it really is a matter of pique.Or perhaps he has something else in mind.

Formally, it is hard to see how the race makes any electoral sense. With a strong Dem already on the field, there is little room to go and pick up the disaffected centrists. To do so, Goei would have to campaign against Brinks, and to date, there is little of that on the field. On the right of Schmidt (and Goei) is Keith Allard, who has been running a verbally aggressive campaign, staking out claims for right to life, fiscal conservatism, and actively drawing contrasts with both Schmidt and Brinks.

But if Goei cannot pick up the center and the right wing is covered, what’s left? Even assuming a total Schmidt collapse, there are not enough votes out there to make it work, all the more with the state and region sliding to the D side at the national level.

The motivation, apparently is the same as that of Schmidt (originally): the mayor’s office. And here, Goei’s campaign is anything but quixotic. The independent write-in campaign symbolically detaches him from the GOP (even if we all know where he stands), and gives him the the independent creds necessary for a non-partisan race.  Plus – provided that I’ve read the  law right —  money raised for the statehouse run can be transferred to another political campaign.

So for now, Goei rebuilds networks, gains visibility, raises money — all tools that can really help in a run for the Mayor’s office. His may not be on Lansing at all, but on Ottawa Avenue.

Filed under: Elections, Uncategorized, , , ,

The price of the Switch

That seems to be the sense of the Schmidt text messages released this past week. Two items stand out as worthy of comment:

First there was the Lisa Posthumus Lyons urging Roy to get extra protection on the day of his switch. A touching, no doubt heart-felt comment, looking out for his safety. But tucked into that was a set of assumptions, not least was that people would be that upset at Roy. And why should that  be, but for the manner not the fact of his switch. Lyons and the party establishment were fundamentally on the side of gamesmanship of the switch — the same gamesmanship that drove Bing Goei crazy (and why, one should note, a Goei write-in is not likely to get much support from the GOP establishment). Were Lyons a better friend, she would have told Roy to switch earlier, not later.

A second pillow secret that comes up is that of the motive: Roy’s desire to run against Mayor Heartwell. The underlying strategy seems to be that by switching, Schmidt ingratiates himself to the monied powers in Ada, Cascade and Caledonia. Thus we end up with the sad spectacle of a man who had built a long-standing relationship with the unions in the City, particularly or fire and police, now seeking support from those interests who are actually aligned against those same unions. The fundamental position that Schmidt had relative to the Mayor was to stand up for the police and fire against proposed cutbacks from City Hall. Instead, by making the implicit play to the anti-union crowd, he basically took the side of City Hall, invalidating his basic working stiff creds.

Hardly the stuff for success.

In terms of city politics, the switch makes even less sense for the mayor’s race. The nature of the east-west split in the City is that politics of the SE side, shaped by Dutch Calvinism, wants to focus on principles. It’s not accident that all the challengers to Schmidt (Brinks, Goei, Allard) come from these neighborhoods.

 

Filed under: Republican Folly, , , , , ,

Goei, Goei, gone?

An interesting phone survey landed yesterday, asking about the 76th: Democrat-turned-Republican? Winnie? Allard? Write in for Bing Goei?

Bing Goei? From comments at MLive, it sounds as if he has made noises about running as a write-in alternative.While no news announcement has been made, the phone poll certainly suggests that some one is considering his (re)entry as possible and perhaps even probable. Did Bing get enough votes to jump in? Time will tell.

But then again, time’s fleeting. The window to enter, to run a real write-in campaign is rather narrow. The longer Goei postpones his decision, the harder it will be to gain any traction other than that of the base. And conservative as the 76th is drawn, the base is not big enough to win.

Still one can understand the temptation, what with the prospect of charges against our Democrat-turned-Republican (and now friend of the Hiring Class), there does seem to be some room over on the conservative side for a write-in. Or there would be were it not for Keith Allard. Allard has shown that he has a fair amount of political guts, first showing up as an “appointee of Governor Granholm” in the initial WZZM story, and even into the primary not citing any of his pro-life creds, even if one might infer it from his graduation from Catholic Central. In the last weeks, his stand has turned progressively to the right, running Facebook ads that proclaim him as a fiscal conservative and pro-life.

So, for the record, Bing has a job cut out for him. Allard seizes the right leaving Bing with the establishment GOP. Split vote. As infuriating as the election rigging shenanigans are, there does not seem to be any room for a moderate Republican.

Filed under: Elections, , , ,

On Leaving the Frying Pan

If Roy Schmidt’s inept change of parties demonstrated anything, it was just how non-Machiavellian he actually is. By his own admission he’s  a regular guy who  very much wants to have voters remember him as he was, a conservative but not ideological, pragmatic politician. Sure he switched, but as he reminded voters, “he’s still the same old Roy.”

While in my party switch I made a poor political decision, it is becoming clear the people of Grand Rapids want to move on, and so do I. The people of Grand Rapids can expect to see me at their front door over the next few months to talk about the issues that are important to us here in this City: Jobs, protecting hardworking taxpayers, education and public safety.

Any hope of moving on, however, was crushed Friday, when Mitt Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.

At a tactical level, appeals to hardworking taxpayers, education and public safety are savaged by a Ryan-Romney budget that slashes the federal expenditures. Of course, Schmidt can move farther to the right and embrace the anti-poor budget with its  slashing of EITC and sharp reductions in Medicaid. And that’s the start of the impact of the Ryan proposal. As Ryan Lizza shows in his Ryan profile in The New Yorker, the federal programs that could build up a city or region — the sort that Schmidt has always championed — these are antithetical to the views of Ryan and his patron.

But the issues are more than tactical. The selection of Ryan functions as a definitional event. The positions that Romney has taken are now explicitly those of the GOP as a whole. They are branded. The only way out for centrists and moderate conservatives is a sort of disavowal (at risk of picking up a RINO label), but of couse, with the media storm, such a disavowal won’t work. At this point, one can even imagine Bing Goei giving thanks that he doesn’t have to face this challenge.

And it’s not just Schmidt. His predicament is one that Republicans of all stripes must face. While they may be known personally as men and women of a certain sensibility, the lurch to the Right by the radical faction now obligates them to defend positions that fly in face of their own commitment. Some, naturally, can eat that sandwich and smile.

Conversely, this is also the opportunity for the Democrats. A Ryan-branded party is an even better target than the know-nothing Tea Party brand of Sarah Palin. Republicans (and conservatives) at all levels now can be addressed as supporting the undoing of the social safety net and the rewarding of the already very wealthy. In a fight over principles, pragmatism loses out.

And already there are already rumblings from the pros that this brand may be a disaster.

Filed under: Elections, Politics, , , ,

Campaign Notes

[I will be enjoying life far away from the polls next week. But before then, here are some notes on various campaigns]

Quite Likely the Whitest Campaign Ever

That would be Pestka-Thomas primary. Were one to look at the visuals of their websites, their Facebook pages, or for that matter the material that comes in the mail, why one would think there were hardly minorities anywhere in the region. Sort of like Ottawa County (if you’re a Republican).

This is more than an oddity, however. In the general election, minorities will play a crucial role, the challenge being to draw the occasional voter to vote the rest of the ballot.  While the voting decision for poor and minorities is often made fairly late in the campaign, candidates cannot wait until then. Moreover, the lack of face time undercuts both candidates’ claims to being progressive.

I live in the city. I know how important Democratic values and Washington decisions are to my neighbors. I would like to see more evidence that they will get heard.

Too Conventional?

When the Pestka campaign chose the standard “Defend the Retiree” stance to push back against Thomas, one can hardly blame them. This is the common tactic for appealing to a core Democratic base; it seems like an easy win. But it is also a trap, one that will become painfully clear on Wednesday, August 8.

There is something rather old-fashioned about this, almost charming. And that’s the danger. “Old fashioned.” Something from the 80s or 90s. Against a 32-year old tyro, does it work?

If anything, this defensive approach gives the opposition two avenues of attack: old ideas (that presumably don’t work), and since most adults know that entitlements will need to be looked at — the defensive approach becomes easily portrayed as a form of “do nothing-ism.” At a time when the GOP will be running on “fiscal austerity” (albeit of the sad Paul Ryan approach), the defensive position gives them the mantle of “reformer.”  It cedes the frame to the other side. And as a matter of practical politics, coming across as a conventional Democrat is a fair way to keep moderate conservatives from voting for you. Oh, they may despise Amash, but the more Pestka sounds like one more Democrat — well the campaign begins to bleed the voters it needs.

And that would be a shame. In other forums  Pestka has demonstrated a real appreciation for the budget decisions confronting the nation. By becoming known as that sort of practical, economically informed candidate, he can successfully whittle away at the Amash support.

Schmidt throws a Hail Mary

Another flyer in the mailbox is this, from Rep. Roy Schmidt

The Catholics are his last bastion, it would seem. Running as a social conservative would have been a good stance for the general, but the drumbeat of condemnation, from the County Prosecutor, Schmidt’s own nephew, and of course the press on MLive — standing up for new life and babies, but not standing up for your friends and constituencies? That doesn’t work. So he ends up simply being a Catholic candidate instead of a social conservative one, the former being a parochial stance, the latter at least in theory, one that represents a region.

As a matter of electoral politics, one also has to ask how this plays in the context of a senatorial primary. With Hoekstra well on his way to the win, the social conservative wing of Hekman (and once Glenn) is simply too small. Here, Bing Goei’s connection to regular GOP members gives him an edge. With the Hoekstra train coming through, the one play that Schmidt did have would be casting himself as a proto-Tea Party member, but then again, that would violate his implicit appeal of the “same old Roy.”

All these troubles arise because the original plan to defect was handled tactically rather than strategically. Without consideration of how to position oneself after the switch, he ends up with surprisingly little to say. And of course, if you are going to run for office, you will have to say something.

Farm? What Farm?

Last, one of the odder pieces of politics has been the attempted return of Jim Vaughn to his county commission seat.

Vaughn takes a resolute stand for jobs and for attention to the black community, but then draws a sharp (and negative) contrast with Farmland preservation. For most Democrats, this is an odd position. It does suggest another form of older politics. In the post civil rights era, one of the compromises black politicians made was the sort that secured direct advantages for communities, but largely ceded the issues outside the neighborhood to the dominant party (i.e. the Republicans). This style of politics works both ways, for the white politician, it allows for some sense of doing good, after all one is supporting their elected representative –even conservatives want to do justice — and at the same time, it provides another vote on items of concern for the conservative wing, such as opposition to farmland preservation.

This pattern of mutual benefit can also be seen in various redistricting schemes that consolidated black voters in guaranteed districts, thus freeing up other districts for more conservative white candidates.

As I said, this is an old pattern.

What Vaughn misses is the more integrated way of both parties. For the GOP, this has been shown in greater party discipline. There is less room for the older style on the part of whites, too. It is now ideological. For the Dems, issues are also more integrated. We no longer think in terms of simply our separate boxes, not even that of union, non-union. The wiser heads have come to see that the attention to the environment is every bit as important as addressing the problems of the City. The pulling it apart, the notion that Green has no place at the (economic) table is over.

Last, Vaughn’s approach might have some traction in a more purely black district, but redistricting has tossed in a number of precincts that are less inclined to make the same economic trade-off, and certainly more inclined to value the environment.

Filed under: Democratic Party, Elections, , , , , , , , ,

Roy Schmidt’s four-fold path

As Nate Reens notes, the Schmidt-storm continues on the editorial pages across the state. Particularly brutal was the Detroit Free Press

No one in Schmidt’s district (maybe even in the state) can trust him at this point. He clearly believes more in his own political preservation than he does in the integrity of his office or the democratic process.

“No one can trust him…” That is not necessarily the death blow that the Freep assumes, more damaging is the blow to the image. As a brand, Roy Schmidt needs to rebuild, because the brutal electoral math is that Republican base or no, the district is won by the persuadables. Roy desperately needs to rebuild some trust. So what is a poor boy to do? Four paths suggest themselves.

Do the Hardiman.

It’s one of the better if shameless plays out there: when caught in an ethics lapse propose a reform to outlaw what you just did. For then Senator Hardiman, it was robo-calling against his opponent — calls without party identification. He was “shocked” even as he benefited. Robo-call reform became one of his calling cards. Of course this is shameless for Schmidt, but that’s not to say it wouldn’t be effective. He stands with that vigilant defender of voter integrity, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to introduce new reforms to the registration process. In fact, for Johnson it could be win-win, with the new legislation confirming her as a fighter for integrity while distracting from her own campaign of voting restriction. And Schmidt doesn’t even have to really think what those reforms could be, turns out Stephen Henderson already has a list for him to borrow from.

Of course there are drawbacks. This has to be put forth sooner rather than later, since the notion is to replace a “he’s corrupt” narrative with a “he’s a reformer” one. That takes time and attention. Of course, it also needs the sign-off from the House leadership, and that’s the problem. The House Dems already have a set of reform proposals, so any Schmidt-led reform runs afoul of internal House politics.

Do the Amash

One of the hallmarks of our present Congressman, Justin Amash, is his ability to take seeming independent stands. The recent kerfuffle over a missing Right to Life endorsement would be one such move (overlooking the fact that his actual stand is to the right of the organization). So Schmidt could find a cause that he could immediately advocate, that separates him from the GOP while re-establishing himself as the “Roy we all knew.” Possible issues could be education, revenue sharing — but does Roy have the freedom for this move? Will the militant wing of the GOP really tolerate such a move? Already the rumbles on the SE side suggest that this path is not available. In an election cycle, it is even more difficult to see how such a strategy could be advanced. Were he re-elected, then perhaps. But as part of the campaign? Again, a difficult play, and so, not likely.

Do the Matt Davis

MLive commentator suggests simply toughing it out.

Judging from Kent County Prosecutor William A. Forsyth’s epistle, you would think that their effort was the precursor to Western civilization falling on its ear.
Piffle.

And there is something actually attractive about being so hard nosed. The proverbial, “So? What’re you going to do about it?” is rough on the good government folks, but it’s a nice stand-up style. As the saying goes, politics ain’t beanbag. Nonetheless, there’s a fly in this: to claim the tough guy stance you have to first win. The one outstanding feature of the entire Schmidt-storm is the basic failure of the plan. If you are going to play a dirty trick, you need first to carry it through. Instead, Schmidt hesitates, looks weak. The tough guy approach is basically an assertion of competence: sure I did it, I know what I’m doing. Obviously, that is not the case, here.

As tempting as doing nothing or being defiant may appear, it remains a declaration of unsuitability for office.

So what’s left?

Leave.

Indications are already in the air that this may be the path. The emergence of Bing Goei as an opponent is not mere opportunism, but a sign of distrust within the centrist GOP ranks — the very folks who would otherwise welcome Schmidt. With plenty of outrage directed at House Speaker Jase Bolger, the politically opportune move would be to cut one’s losses. Were Schmidt unable or unwilling to mount one of the other counter plans above, then the resignation looms as an easier option.

Of course, he could stay, and win the primary. That gamble rests on a more polarized electorate, closer to 2010 than any of the presidential years. But that very inactivity, that passiveness about his future simply pushes him into the role of “politics at its worst” and far from the Roy folks thought they new.

Filed under: Elections, Republican Folly, , , , , , , , , ,

Goeing, Goeing, Gone?

Does Bing Goei know something we don’t? Or is he just really pissed? In today’s press conference, he suggested a little bit of both:

“I had to rethink my position,” Goei said. “I’ve always challenged people, when they see a wrong, to stand up and challenge it and make it right. I’ve been asking other people to stand up and this became ‘Am I going to stand up?’”
“I can’t let a wrong or an injustice go unanswered and unchallenged. And when I look at Roy being a Republican leader for Grand Rapids, that move was made in Lansing. No one has said he’s a Republican here and I want this to be a choice.”

Perhaps we can attribute it to blood in the water, but Goei has been pretty cautious — after all he considered running earlier and then declined to run. So some other recalculation has taken place. Whatever the reason, Goei’s entry makes the task for Roy Schmidt all that much harder.

Tactically, Goei faces a challenge: his write-in campaign will need 4,000 – 6,000 votes for a clean win. That scale is certainly larger than his mailing list from his last run. His clear advantage is that he will be a known quantity for many in the district if nothing else, from his last run.

But it’s going to take money. Here, Rep. Ken Yonkers’ abandoning Schmidt serves as an indication of potential funding. More critically for the campaign will be that of organization. At this point it looks almost certainly like a direct mail campaign rather than a lot of door to door.

At least one commentator on MLive has suggested that House Speaker Jase Bolger is already at work on this, that Goei has at least his tacit blessing, or even more, perhaps the assurance that Schmidt will be gone by August 4.

Of course much of this is good news for Winnie Brinks.

Her background in the Christian Reformed Church dovetails with that of Goei’s — when it comes to the center they appeal to the same audience. In the general this may prove problematic, given Goei’s more visible standing in the Third Ward, but for now, she’s out front and on the doorsteps. As Brandon Dillon showed in 2010, hard work and vigorous campaigning can make a big difference in this district.

The larger question in the next two weeks will be what to do with the Republican Right Wing. In 2010, Goei ran slightly to the left of the militants, (aka Tea Party). For Schmidt, the defensive move will be to shift rightward. The danger is that the Third Ward is conservative but not as anti-government as the militant wing presents itself. Even if going right wins it for Schmidt in the primary, it only serves to confirm to conservative centrists that they will be better with the moderate Winnie Brinks.

But the other option on the  table, that Schmidt will withdraw, also poses a danger for Goei. Does he then lean right to better secure a win in November? Or can he keep reasonably centrist and so suck some air out of a Brinks’ campaign? Here, his first hesitancy probably comes into play. The ideological contortions that would be involved are the sort that can subtly rob a campaign of its attack. And most definitely, a Brinks-Goei battle will need strong, aggressive campaigns.

Filed under: Elections, , , , , , , ,

Schmidt storm

When Roy Schmidt switched parties it certainly stirred up a small tempest.

First, of course, was the obvious disarray that it left the local Democratic Party. The loss of an elected official was bad enough, to lose at the last possible minute, to lose with an obvious dummy candidate in place taking the role of a legitimate Democrat — well, that’s the stuff of grudges. There ought to be a law the feeling went, except — only there wasn’t.

Then came the report from Kent County Prosecuting Attorney, William Forsyth, and the small tempest became a major media storm. While the report could find no violations of the law, it nonetheless offered a damning view of the circumstances leading up to the switch, including the negotiations between the representative and Speaker of the House, Rep. Jase Bolger.  Forsyth’s own view was that of outrage. Although he could not prosecute, he was explicit on the violation of integrity.

“Incredibly, while it would be illegal to pay a boxer to take a “dive” or a basketball player to “point-shave”, it is not currently a crime in Michigan to recruit someone to run for public office, place them on the ballot at the “eleventh hour” and essentially pay them to make no effort to win.”

The extensive media attention by MLive and broadcast media have taken Forsyth’s words and made them a virtual campaign in themselves. The Democratic campaign from Winnie Brinks no longer needs to generate outrage, the report provides all the quotes one could use. Tactically this is a great advantage. Yet for all the outrage, is it enough?

Understandably, the sharp words from the Prosecuting Attorney give a morale boost to Democrats, but is it enough to shape the election? Here the actual make up of the redesigned district comes into play. There is no question that the district was restructured to give maximum voice to the GOP in the outer neighborhoods of the city. In the 76th the base leans slightly to the right (2004, .54 R; 2008, .45 R; 2010, .55 R), so depending on how strong the Republican base is motivated, the district becomes more or less difficult. As can be seen, much depends on the scale of turnout the Dems can generate.

To translate this: Roy Schmidt’s future rests with the casual, “persuadable” voter. If the GOP is sufficiently motivated, it may be enough. This is the real impact of the media storm. Yes the Dems can take direct heart, but the real damage is with Schmidt’s image among those who pay casual attention.  We already the see the damage in the jumping in of Bing Goei as a write candidate for Republicans. Like Brinks, he’s another CRC product and reflects the general disgust in the SE side.

For Schmidt to lose the SE side would put his campaign in jeopardy, even assuming a base vote like that of 2004. To win, he will need a partisan race like that of 2004, and not only that, he must also present the case that he is in line with the top of the ticket. That however, can only further erode his standing among the casual and persuadable voters. What he needs to do, is find some strategy to clean up after this storm. There are several available, more on that later.

Filed under: Democratic Party, Elections, , , , , , , ,

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