Election year momentum is starting to pick up in Michigan. Tonight, Republicans convene county conventions across the state.
The Ingham County GOP gathers in Holt. WKAR’s Mark Bashore asked county party Chairman Norm Shinkle about the local gathering as well as other questions relevant in this election year.
NORM SHINKLE: The purpose of this county convention is to elect a delegation to go to the state convention, and the state party assigns the counties how many people we can put in our delegation. Ingham county gets 46 delegates and 46 alternates. The total state is just over 2,000---Republicans (who) will be gathering at Cobo Hall, delegates this May 18 and 19. For this state convention in May, we’re going to elect our 56 delegates and alternates that go to Tampa for the National Republican Convention. And also to elect a national committeeman and national committeewoman.
MARK BASHORE: Can you give me a breakdown of the priorities of a typical Ingham County Republican in 2012 or is the GOP diverse enough that it defies that kind of breakdown?
SHINKLE: Well the Republican Party always has been known as a party of principles and (of) belief in our constitution and all its amendments. And in Ingham County—a Democrat county by definition because of the dominance of Lansing and East Lansing that vote heavily Democrat--you have a different ‘goal set.’ As you can imagine, we typically play defense for the county commission. I mean, we’re hoping that the Democrats don’t do too many bad things, but to the extent that the Republicans can influence them to do a correct thing….I think a big issue that just happened was the dissolution of the appointed road commission. It’s been heavily mismanaged and the Republicans have been working on that for quite a few years and so we’re very pleased that a majority of Democrats saw the correct direction and did that. So it’s a matter of doing the best you can, when you can.
BASHORE: Where are your members on Hoekstra, Durant, Glenn and the other Senate candidates?
SHINKLE: The Senate field is wide. I don’t speak on behalf of the county party on this because everyone has their own opinion, but I see this as a race where the two horses at the front of the pack right now would be Pete Hoekstra and Clark Durant. Pete, because he’s been in Congress. Everyone knows him--he ran for governor. Clark Durant, on the other hand, ran for U.S. Senate way back in 1980. But Clark’s a good man, principled. He started the Cornerstone Schools and they are charter schools in Detroit and they’re doing a fabulous job. Everybody that knows these schools knows how important they are to the children of Detroit. So right there, I think it’s between Clark Durant and Hoekstra, but we have good candidates out there. Randy Heckman, Pete Konetchy from Roscommon, Gary Glenn. I mean, we’re going to know here next week, or (in) two weeks, who has been able to collect the 20,000 signatures required to run. So right now it might come down to three or four candidates.
BASHORE: It’s a feature of a primary that candidates appeal to the base to win the nomination, then, the conventional wisdom says the winners move to the center leading up to November. Do you expect to see that in Mitt Romney, or are we seeing that already?
SHINKLE: Well that is conventional wisdom and obviously you have to win the primary. I think you saw something other than that with our governor. His campaign for the primary didn’t change at all for his campaign for the general. I think Mitt Romney is a lot like that. I don’t think you’ll be seeing him advocate different issues now that he has the nomination locked up than he has been. It’s a matter of educating the people on the current president’s record.
BASHORE: You’ve been involved in county Republican politics for many years. What are the more memorable changes you’ve noticed in terms of the issues or the values Republicans feel are most important?
SHINKLE: What’s happened in the last couple of years for me that makes it different is the advent of people that are now concerned about the direction our country is going. Basically the debt that we are incurring on the federal level, and what’s spawned up from that are groups—912 groups, tea party groups, conservative caucuses. They all have different names but for the most part they’re brand new folks or people that haven’t been active recently in the Republican Party and they’re trying to figure out what they can do to help our country from going bankrupt. That dimension, I think, is new. Even some Democrats are now talking about being fiscally responsible. Our quality of life in our society is going to hit the tank here and I think right now we probably have a better understanding—as a society—of the issues affecting our country than we have in a long time.
BASHORE: Is there a place for moderates and independents in the Republican party?
SHINKLE: Yes, Mark, and our goal is not to convert people to be Republicans. Our goal is to get moderates and independents that don’t align themselves as Republicans to vote for our candidate, the Republican candidate, in November. I mean, you win when you have the majority of votes. You don’t win if a majority of people label themselves as a particular party. So it’s a matter of the party educating people and letting people know what our candidates in the party stand for. And as new people get in the party—and the tea party leadership is getting more and more involved in the Republican structure--you can see the party’s positions being affected by that. I think that’s healthy. It’s still a conservative party, one that believes in constitutional principles.