Category Archives: Elections

The lessons from special elections

The Republicans in Georgia just received a big “Scott Brown” scare in the special election yesterday (4-18).  They still do in June. The district covers some of Atlanta’s northern suburbs and is historically Republican. Trump struggled there, barely winning the district after Romney, McCain and previous representative Tom Price won it easily.

While this is something to keep an eye on, it’s not necessarily a precursor of things to come in 2018 for the following reasons.

  • Georgia’s elections are different as they have a nonpartisan style where the top 2 make the runoff unless one gets 50%

There were 5 D candidates, only one of which was really serious in this campaign. All the D’s pushed Jon Ossoff. There were 11 R candidates, four of which were serious. That split the vote enough to guarantee that Jon Ossoff makes the runoff with the Republican with the most votes, Karen Handel.

  • Special elections are low turnout.

These are about getting the base to the polls. To put things in perspective, Ossoff got 92,390 votes. The combined D’s got 93,911. Tom Price’s opponent last November got 124,917, and Price was a very strong incumbent getting over 200,000 votes. The flipside of this shows danger however for June. Karen Handel got 37,993 votes. Combined R’s were only 97,997, less than half of Price’s numbers. Low turnout usually favors the party not in power and minority party in that area. That is how R’s won democrat areas in the past getting Scott Brown elected in Massachusetts, Charles Djou in Hawaii, and Joseph Cao in New Orelans. The D’s took those seats back as well.

  • Organization in the big key in special elections.

This goes with the low turnout. The D’s right now have almost nothing to lose and are organized. Their goal is to recreate a 2010 in reverse with a leftist version of tea party. While it remains to be seen if it catches fire, what is happening however is organization. Good organization is good for a few percentage points. In presidential elections, all sides are organized (to various degrees and styles). In a midterm, usually the side opposite POTUS is organized, but there’s gubernatorial campaigns and factors as well. In specials, only the race covered is on the ballot. Trump’s win is still fresh in the minds, so the D’s are highly organized this time. In addition, the R’s are organized more by their campaign teams than stopping the D’s since it was technically all against all with the Georgia system. Right now, it’s up to Karen Handel’s team to match that in the runoff.

In the end, does that mean the R’s are in danger of losing this seat? In June, yes. In November 2018, it is too early to tell. What this does show however, is that the D’s if nothing else, are strongly organized and are spending the money to contest any place they think they have a chance to win. This is much like what the R’s did with Scott Brown in the special election. Right now, I’d put the odds at 50/50 with the momentum more in Ossoff’s favor, although he didn’t hit 50%. The good news is that the R’s won’t be caught off-guard in June. If they were, they aren’t now.

Go out and win this June, and then spike the football in the media’s face.

A long term project

Since I’m back as LCGOP Chair, this won’t be updated as much as I originally planned due to time commitments. I will be starting a long term numbers crunching project.

One of the projects I did on another site was titled “The Path to Win (or lose) Michigan.” It was a 25 part series that was done before the 2016 election to make the case that Michigan was not a “blue state” in the same vein as Illinois, California, or most of the Acela Corridor. It’s a state winnable for both parties. That was proven with 2016’s win for Trump.

Before the election I said the following.

I think Michigan is winnable for R candidates under three conditions.

  1. It is seriously contested with time and effort. Long term.
  2. A 83 county strategy is used. Long term.
  3. The right candidate with the right message is the nominee. Short and long term.

I didn’t mention much in that project about Trump, but compared five elections and separated the state by region. I learned much from that project about this state’s politics and grew an appreciation for Snyder’s campaign style and method.

The next step will be a project I will be putting up here. I’ve long chirped about an 83 county strategy. On my old blog I had an old county profile started. It hasn’t been updated in 10 years. It’s time to redo them. This will likely be finished at some time around 2021. I’d like to have it finished before the 2022 redistricting. Some election data will be easier to get than others.

Some of the data I have won’t be public. Some of it will be.

My experience with the 2016 Recount

I thought the recount was a ridiculous waste of time and a waste of our tax money. Unfortunately, $125 a precinct won’t cover costs, and it is our counties that pay the price. I also thought it was a good learning experience, personally.  If this was Hillary Clinton pushing the recount, I would not have liked it, but there is theoretically a path to victory for her. There was no path for Jill Stein. If the concern was “hacking,” she was looking at the wrong state since this is an optical scan state with paper ballots. If she was concerned about the blank votes, she should know that a lot of people voted for blank for president. We didn’t exactly have a super popular group of candidates this year. What would have better is an audit of the election with the concerns out of Wayne County. We do need that.

While the courts halted the recount in Michigan, my county did go for one day and I was there for that. I’ve been involved in most roles in an election at some point in the last 15 years. Recounts are new territory for me. I knew about the Mike Rogers recount in 2000 for congress and Joe Hune’s recount in the 2002 primary, and a township recount here and there, but I wasn’t in the middle of those. I took some time off and spent all day yesterday working as an attorney challenger on the Republican side for the recount yesterday. It was the first day the recount was going to be counted in Livingston County.  We went through 1/3 of the precincts in Livingston County, and Trump gained 18 votes, with Hillary gaining 5 in the county. Some things I’ve learned or were reinforced to me.  Us political folks are not the majority. By that, I mean those who eat, breath, and sleep politics, and those who work in the business. This was shown in some of the voting patterns and downticket splits. People have their own reasons for voting the way they do. It’s not always ideological.

I don’t impress easily. I was impressed at the operation. We have very good group of municipal clerks (with one major exception) here in Livingston County. This was a tough test. We didn’t know what the courts would do. We did not expect a statewide presidential recount.  Our county clerk is new and has been on the job for about a year. This was a short notice surprise. Our County Clerk had a good team organized. Two of our past county clerks were there helping. I saw most of the township and city clerks there. There were four rooms at a county building used for the recount. Both parties had people covering the polling stations. Myself, one other attorney, and a Michigan Republican Party staffer. I moved around between the four rooms keeping an eye on things. Some representatives from the State Bureau of Elections were there as well.

The actual process in Livingston County was as follows. A precinct is delivered to the table. The seals are supposed to match. The seal is broken and the ballots are removed by the election workers. Challengers and attorneys are not allowed to touch the ballots. The workers then count the number of ballots. They are supposed to match the pollbook or tabulator. If they don’t, they count again. If there’s three counts that don’t match, then the precinct is deemed “Not recountable” and the original numbers are used for the election. Once the ballots match, then the ballots are sorted into piles of Trump, Clinton, Others (write-ins, blanks), Johnson, Stein, Castle, and the Natural Law Party candidate I can’t remember. After the piles are sorted, then stacks of 25 are counted for each candidate by the poll workers with the results entered. The ballots are then resealed in the bin.

Jill Stein thought there was no way that 85000 people skipped the presidential race. I disagreed with that then and still do now. While Trump got the majority in my county, a lot of people didn’t like either candidate. There were some scorned primary voters who went straight ticket for one party, but voted the opposite for president (Trump D’s and Hillary R’s). There were more straight party 3rd party straight tickets with a Trump or Hillary vote. Working Class favored Trump. Libertarians seems more Trump (if not Johnson) but not always. Greens more Hillary, but not always. Some went Trump. There were quite a few votes for blanks, particularly among Republicans. There were some, although not many votes for Evan McMullin, who was a write in here.  There were also “invalid write-in” votes (counts the same as a no vote or blank vote) for Marco Rubio, John Kasich, Bernie Sanders, “none of the above”, and even Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, and Jimmy Kimmell. Some wrote in Mike Pence. Those were usually put in the “others” pile, but I challenged those as votes for Trump/Pence. Michigan is not a voter intent state. Here’s something I didn’t know until a couple of days ago. If I voted straight party R and wrote in a “non-valid” write in candidate. Donald Duck for example. The Donald Duck vote would not count, and the straight party vote would take over turning it into a vote for Trump. If I didn’t vote straight party and voted for Donald Duck, then it would be the same as a blank vote for president. On the other hand, if I voted straight party R, but voted for Evan McMullin, it would could as vote for McMullin as he was a valid write in. It sounds strange, but that’s the law in Michigan.

I’ve heard about major problems in Wayne County. I wasn’t there for those, but they are found all over the internet.

Our county folks did a great job. 90% of our townships and municipalities did a great job, both on election day, and in the recount. They worked well together to get through this process. Our county clerk was there herself, as were two previous retired county clerks who were there to help. Our County’s elections director for the most part ran the show and is one of the best. Most of our township clerks were there as well helping with the process. Most of the problems we saw were from one township. Sadly, it was mine. No, I am not surprised. There’s a reason why I ran against my township clerk in the August primary. Elections was at the top of the list. Two precincts were deemed not recountable due to ballot counts not matching. Both were in my township, and one of the precincts was my own. I was not happy about that as you probably guessed. I made two challenges. One was on a ballot (that happens). The other was related to seals. On one of my township’s AVCB I saw, 3 of the four boxes were sealed. The fourth was not. In that box, there were absentee envelopes, but also original ballots duplicated (allowed) in an envelope. All of the ballots should be in a sealed box.

I didn’t see any problems with other municipalities in my county. That’s not to say there weren’t other issues that may have occured, but I didn’t see them. I also do not expect many problems in my county which has a good reputation for doing things the right way.  One thing that the Stein folks did was confuse the recount process for an audit. I do agree with the Stein committee that there needs to be audits regarding our elections. A recount isn’t the place for that since recounts only show changes in number of votes and/or if a precinct is recountable. Many precincts in different areas of the state had issues. While this recount was a waste of taxpayers’ money, some good did happen out of it, which is to bring some of our election weak links out in the open. We have to make a positive of the negative here, and get our elections in order across the state.

Kudos to our county clerk Betsy Hundley and our elections director Joan Runyan (we are real lucky to have Joan), our past county clerks Margaret Dunleavy and David Teggerdine, Howell City Clerk Jane Cartwright, Brighton Township Clerk Ann Bollin, Marion Twp Clerk Tammy Beal, and the rest of the team there helping with the recount. It received rave reviews from those I have talked to.

Republican Party Leadership Positions

There is little rest after the November election. Within 30 days of the election, all counties elect the executive committees for their county. Some of those pick party leadership immediately, while others wait for their next meeting.

Livingston County will be electing county leadership this Thursday. We may or may not elect our leadership that night or not. That depends on how many contests there are.

In January, we’ll be voting on delegates to state convention. In February, our district party and our state party leadership will be chosen.

The number one thing for all of us to remember is that every organization and culture of the organization is different. Every “establishment” and “grassroots” culture is different. There is no one side fits all. We are lucky in Livingston County in that regard. Our representatives here do a good job. Our “establishment” (I hate that term) here is traditional conservative. The “establishment” here not out of the mainstream of our society or out of the mainstream of our county. The “tea party” groups here in Livingston County aren’t Todd Courser types either who do nothing but cause an embarrassment. In our county, we have fostered a culture of different wings of our party to work together. That’s not to say that there are not disagreements on some matters, but we are in much better shape than many other counties on that level. Two things that work for us are 1. Secret ballot and 2. Electronic voting. We aren’t out until 12AM at conventions anymore. We also don’t have slates rammed through that cause resentment and problems hurting our party long term.

8th District leadership contests have been relative quiet here. For State Party, there are two good people running in Ronna Romney McDaniel (incumbent State Party Chair) and Scott Hagerstrom (Trump’s Michigan campaign manager). Both have done a good job with wins this past cycle. Hopefully things stay clean in these party races and we’re off to a good start for 2018 and the gubernatorial race.


Thoughts on 2016 election and where we go from here.

I’ll admit that I’m surprised to an extent with the result. I’ve posted elsewhere about the path for a Republican to win Michigan and will probably be bringing some of that over to this site. There was a way Donald Trump could have won, and he did two of the three things necessary. (Oakland County was where he bombed). I thought the ground game was what would have done him in.

Trump wasn’t my first choice in the primary, but I did vote for him in the general. I like his VP Mike Pence, and I also like his stance on these trade agreements that have done a lot of harm to Michigan, especially in regards to well paid skilled labor manufacturing. Keep in mind that Reagan put a tariff on motorcycles, saving Harley-Davidson.

I also like that this was a repudiation of the George W Bush years which have damaged my party in a major way. We as Republicans lost a lot of credibility on fiscal matters, especially in regards to the debt in large part to the George W Bush presidency and congress that went a long with it. Obama broke Bush’s records, but Bush allowed it to happen. I also believe our party needs to move to a more realist foreign policy as opposed to a neo-conservative one (or neo liberal Clintonian one).

There’s both opportunity and danger from Trump’s win. The opportunity is due to the major success in working and middle class support to our party for this election. If Trump does a good job for us, we could keep that new support from many independents and even a large number of democrats. Trump was the first Republican Presidential Candidate to win Gogebic, Lake, Bay, and Saginaw Counties in a long time. He also was the first to win Macomb County since 2004, and the first to win Clinton Township since probably 1988.

The danger is also nearby. Oakland County went democrat for the sixth straight presidential election. Novi went democrat for the 2nd time in three elections. Bloomfield Township and Troy also flipped. That’s not a long term recipe for success. That’s a danger sign for Livingston County as well. To the south, Washtenaw County is the most democrat county this election in the state. Dexter Township and Webster Township border Livingston County and went blue.  Trump’s way of speaking  gained a lot of support, but also alienated many people. Some of those independents can probably be gained back with good work, but could be lost in the future as well if there’s a bad job.

There’s a mandate. The mandate is the same as it is for all elected officials in every election. The mandate is to do a good job. Period. As soon as the people don’t see that happening, the “mandate” ends and people get tossed out of office.