The other day Michigan Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Schauer acknowledged that he voted in the 2012 Republican presidential primary, and the hooting has been ongoing since.
The Republicans have gotten the best line since Mr. Schauer made the acknowledgement with a Facebook post saying: “Vote Republican. Mark Schauer did.”
Certainly, it may look strange and even embarrassing for the Democratic candidate for the state’s top office to admit he voted Republican in February 2012. But it is just one more example of how Michigan’s presidential primary has so often been as much a sideshow act and as a serious political exercise.
In talking to reporters, Mr. Schauer acknowledged he probably did vote in the 2012 presidential primary that turned into a dogfight between Michigan native and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum. Who he voted for he would not say, saying like all voters he could keep his vote private. He also said he probably voted because he disliked missing elections.
Now, as to how anyone could know he voted in the primary, the fact that someone votes in an election is a public record (not how they voted, of course). How else would candidates be able to charge their opponent had missed vote in 28 of the last 29 elections? There really was only one election on February 28, 2012, so no mystery there regarding Mr. Schauer.
And because President Barack Obama was running unchallenged for re-nomination, Michigan Democrats did not hold a primary that day. So unless there was a local issue up for grabs in Calhoun County that day, Mr. Schauer voted in the GOP presidential primary.
Let’s go back to May 1972. Michigan’s first presidential primary. A very big deal in this state as people had been calling for such a primary for years.
Michigan is unlike most states in one key political aspect: when one registers to vote one does not indicate a party. And the state primaries have always been open so one can choose to vote in whichever party’s primary they choose.
In the Democratic primary that year, the big race was between then Sen. George McGovern, Sen. Hubert Humphrey and Alabama Governor George Wallace (then-President Richard Nixon was essentially unopposed on the Republican side and looking almost unbeatable, the primary was about a month before the Watergate break-in). The day before the primary, Mr. Wallace was shot and left paralyzed while he was campaigning in Maryland.
And Mr. Wallace then won the Michigan primary, easily.
Democrats were stunned and immediately blamed Republicans for crossing over. Yeah, Republicans probably did turn out for Mr. Wallace, but Democrats in 1972 were far more fractured and not as progressive as they would like to have believed.
At any rate, from that day on Democrats have said any primary had to be a closed primary. Republicans have generally resisted that.
But that has led to a number of shenanigans where members of one party have played games with the other. In 1980, former Governor William Milliken endorsed George H. W. Bush who was in a tough fight with former California Governor Ronald Reagan for the GOP nomination. The Republican Party was seriously splitting between moderates and conservatives that year.
Mr. Bush won the primary, probably because Democrats showed up to deny Mr. Reagan a critical win.
Even when there is no party crossing, the primary can look weird. In 2008, then U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton was the only major Democrat on the January primary ballot – because Democratic presidential candidates were trying not to be punished for running in a state before Iowa or New Hampshire, but when Ms. Clinton put her name down she figured she was a shoo-in for the nomination anyway – and supporters of then Sen. Barack Obama were delighted that “undecided” had such a strong second place showing.
And in 2012 Mr. Santorum was suddenly riding high on tea party enthusiasm. Democrats were hopeful he might be the candidate because they figured President Barack Obama would win in a walk against him and there was talk between Democrats of messing up the homestate favorite Mr. Romney by bringing in votes for Mr. Santorum.
So, Mr. Schauer voted in the 2012 GOP presidential primary. Okay. What is the next shocking revelation we should look forward to?
Republican Angela Rigas of Alto is getting some praise from an unexpected source in her tea party-backed bid to topple Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (R-Alto) in the 86th House District that covers parts of Kent and Ionia counties.
The long-shot Democratic candidate in the race, Lynn Mason of Belding, sent out an email to supporters recently touting Ms. Rigas’ efforts. Ms. Mason will face the winner of the Lyons-Rigas Republican primary and is virtually assured of losing because the district is in one of the most Republican parts of the state (Ms. Posthumus has won 70 percent of the vote against the Democratic candidate in her two election wins).
Ms. Rigas has criticized Ms. Lyons for her support of the Common Core State Standards and the Medicaid expansion and reform legislation. In her email, Ms. Mason declared Ms. Rigas is “a conservative mother who stands for middle class Americans” and that “she and her staff are running a strong, energetic campaign.”
The email notes some of the topics Ms. Rigas is targeting Ms. Lyons for criticism on, including the “bailout” of Detroit.
“Lyons is actually spending a lot of her time and money on trying to defeat Angela Rigas,” Ms. Mason writes. “Overall, Angela Rigas is running a very strong campaign against incumbent state Representative Lisa Posthumus Lyons.”
If Ms. Rigas did manage to oust Ms. Lyons, and Ms. Lyons is the heavy favorite in this race, Ms. Mason might regret those words. Then again, considering virtually any reputable person running as a Republican would be favored to beat any Democrat by at least 30 percentage points, that’s probably not a major concern.
In Macomb County, for the second time in two months, a Republican candidate for county commission has died.
Joe Peters Jr., a Warren resident running for the commission, was discovered dead on Saturday on the floor of a Dairy Boy store he owned.
No foul play is suspected, but it will be as much as six weeks before autopsy results are released for the candidate who friends said was in “perfect health.”
Some six weeks earlier, another GOP candidate for the commission, Mark Czerwinski, died.
In each of the districts the two men were running in, the 5th District for Mr. Peters, and the 10th District for Mr. Czerwinski, each have another Republican running for the nomination. So the county party does not have to name replacement candidates.
However, anyone who voted for Mr. Peters via an absentee ballot will see the vote for that office voided unless they request a new ballot and have the original one spoiled.
Mr. Peters was fairly active in local politics, and ran for the county commission in 2012, but then as a Democrat. He also ran twice for Warren City Council.