DAVID EGGERT, Associated Press
NOVI (AP) — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley was overwhelmingly backed by Michigan Republicans on Saturday, beating out a tea party advocate for the party’s nomination, as activists sought to unify behind a slate of candidates in hopes of retaining control of all three branches of state government in November.
Gov. Rick Snyder’s running mate easily fended off a challenge from Wes Nakagiri, who had been critical of Snyder for expanding Medicaid and supporting Common Core education standards. Snyder called Calley the “best partner” and a strong conservative voice in the administration.
“I am absolutely fired up to be your governor. … Let’s sweep again in 2014 and go get this job done,” Snyder, who ran unopposed in the August primary and will face Democrat Mark Schauer, told thousands of delegates inside the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi.
Also nominated were Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, state Supreme Court Justices Brian Zahra and David Viviano and high court candidate James Redford, a Kent County Circuit judge. None faced opposition, unlike in contested races for nominations to the state Board of Education and university boards.
WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said had the Tea Party pulled-off this win, it would have been a tremendous embarrassment to the governor, who fought hard to keep Calley on the ticket.
“The Tea Party wanted to dump Brian Calley from the ticket, but the Tea Party did not,” Skubick said. “When they counted up the votes, it was 1500 votes for the establishment party candidate, Mr. Calley, who will now be the running-mate with Mr. Snyder. Wes Nakagiri, up until now a political unknown, got over 700 votes. It was a respectable showing, but he still lost by a 2-1 margin. What this means is that the Snyder/Calley ticket is the one that’s on the ballot in November.”
Democrats planned to begin choosing nominees Saturday at their convention in Lansing, though most of their higher-profile candidates will not be nominated until Sunday.
It is customary for activists to get behind the gubernatorial candidate’s choice of running mate. Yet Nakagiri’s bid to be an unwelcome guest on the GOP ticket — while a longshot — could not be discounted given the unpredictability of convention politics and some conservatives’ unease with the more moderate Snyder.
The Republican “establishment” spent a year working to recruit allies for Snyder and Calley, 37, to run as precinct delegates.
Out of more than 2,000 votes cast, Calley won 65 percent to 35 percent. After learning the result, Nakagiri, who lives in Livingston County’s Hartland Township and founded the RetakeOurGov tea party group, moved to make the ballot unanimous for Calley.
“It’s important that we look forward and be unified to defeat the Democrats,” Nakagiri said.
Dennis Armstrong, 65, of Coldwater, said he voted for Calley because was the better candidate, citing his professionalism and moral values.
“We may not agree 100 percent with the positions (Snyder) has taken on some issues, but compared to the possible alternative I’d take Gov. Snyder any day over Mark Schauer … If you look at where the state of Michigan was four years ago financially compared to what it is now, it’s a night and day difference,” said Armstrong, a retired utility company supervisor and secretary of the Branch County Republican Party.
Jack Powell, a 66-year-old retired automaker from Montrose, said he backed Nakagiri to send a message to Snyder.
“I respect the (governor) for a lot of things, but I don’t think he’s being conservative enough as far as how we feel on certain issues, and one of them is same-sex marriage. That is very big issue,” he said.
Snyder, who keeps mostly silent on social issues, said in a 2010 debate that he supported marriage as “between a man and a woman.” As governor, he has said the state will not recognize hundreds of same-sex marriages performed in a brief window in March while the broader question of Michigan’s gay marriage ban remains in court.
The nominating convention also was a chance for candidates already on the November ballot to rally the party’s base.
“If we work together, we can balanced the budget, repeal and replace Obamacare, fix our roads, trained our skill workers, stop outsourcing, secure our border and throw Sen. Harry Reid a retirement party,” said U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land, who faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters for the seat held by retiring Democrat Carl Levin.
Snyder touted the creation of nearly 300,000 jobs, population growth, elimination of Michigan’s business tax and passage of a right-to-work law that made payment of union fees voluntary for unionized workers.
“The message we need to send is, ‘This is not the time to go back to the past, to go to those old broken Michigan days, but to go the future and accelerate the progress and say our brightest days are ahead of us,” he told the crowd.
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