March 31, 2015 SIGN IN | REGISTER
Roll Call

Thaddeus McCotter's Botch Risks Seat

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo

Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter spent much of this cycle as the butt of late-night jokes. But no one on Capitol Hill is laughing at the Republicans latest gaffe botching his ballot petition for re-election and forcing a write-in campaign.

Republican operatives are privately livid with McCotter, who spent much of last year trotting around the country for his quixotic presidential campaign, for jeopardizing an otherwise-safe seat and potentially costing valuable resources.

The five-term lawmakers campaign  turned in less than a quarter of the requisite signatures to seek the GOP nomination in the 11th district. On Tuesday, McCotter announced he would forge ahead with a write-in campaign for his partys nod on Aug. 7.

Youre not going to have a community whos going to come behind him on this, former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land (R) said. Im sure some folks who supported Congressman McCotter in the past arent happy. Are they going to be there to support him? I dont know.

Now Republicans must decide whether to allocate serious resources to save McCotter a former acolyte of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and quirky loner.

Publicly, House Republicans pledged to support McCotters write-in campaign. Majority Leader Eric Cantor told Fox News on Tuesday that he would back McCotters write-in campaign. National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) will help McCotter raise the resources he needs, committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said.

McCotter welcomed House Republican leaders support in a phone interview. He said he has not asked for their financial help yet.

I intend to honor that trust and confidence, McCotter said. I welcome their help if necessary as determined over the coming weeks.

But McCotter will have to join the Patriot program, the NRCCs incumbent retention program, which requires meeting specific campaign benchmarks.

Privately, House Republicans acknowledge that is a hurdle for McCotter. They are concerned with his fundraising and campaign infrastructure faults that became more evident with his ballot mishap.

It doesnt help that McCotter has not been a team player for House Republicans in recent cycles. He hasnt made a significant donation to the NRCC since 2008, even though he has not had a competitive re-election race yet.

I imagine this will be a nose-holding exercise of having to help someone help themselves, one top House GOP aide said. The NRCC, despite his lack of participation, is still a membership-based organization.

Republicans expect McCotter to win re-election easily if hes their nominee. The GOP-controlled state Legislature made the district safer for Republicans during redistricting last year.

Before this incident, McCotters likely general election opponent, internist Syed Taj, didnt even make the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committees Red to Blue program for its top 63 challenger candidates.

But McCotters campaign will prove challenging for House Republicans in multiple ways. The NRCC has not supported a write-in candidate since Shelley Sekula-Gibbs sought  the seat of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) in 2006. And in Michigan, no one has won a write-in campaign for Congress in recent history.

First, McCotter must file his intent to run as a write-in candidate by July 27. Michigan election law does not require the voter to write in the name of a candidate perfectly, but the voters intent must be clear.

To secure the GOP nomination, McCotter must receive more votes than the lone Republican on the ballot, teacher Kerry Bentivolio, a perennial candidate.

Additionally, McCotter must have a certain number of write-in votes to qualify as the nominee. The secretary of states office determines that threshold as at least 0.15 of 1 percent of the total population of the district.

Republicans estimated McCotter could need 25,000 to 41,000 write-in votes to do that. McCotter received 43,303 votes when he ran unopposed in the comparable 2008 GOP primary.

Im working under the assumption that because weve never done one, its going to be the hardest [race] weve ever done, McCotter said. Were not only running against an opponent, were running against the ballot itself.

McCotter might have even more company in the race.  

State Sen. Mike Kowall (R) dropped his primary challenge against McCotter in January, throwing his support behind the Congressmans re-election. But in light of McCotters embarrassing signature snafu, Kowall said he has been encouraged to launch his own write-in campaign.

Ive been approached, Kowall said Tuesday. I was in parades all weekend, and I had people yelling at me, saying Where do I sign a write-in petition?

To prepare for the write-in effort, McCotter said he plans to reach out to recent winners of such contests. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) won a general election write-in campaign after losing her partys nomination last cycle.

But McCotters petition botch was more reminiscent of another write-in candidate from the past decade: former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio).

In 2006, Wilson failed to get the 50 signatures required to get on the Democratic primary ballot, falling only a few short of the requirement. House Democrats quickly rallied behind Wilson by sending staff and other resources to eastern Ohio to help him in the open-seat race. He won the nomination by a margin of more than 28,000 votes and went on to win in November.

Its too early to tell whether the NRCC will have a similar all-hands-on-deck response for McCotter. In some ways, the McCotter campaigns mistakes were more egregious, although the signature requirement is higher.

In Michigan, candidates need 1,000 valid signatures to qualify for the primary ballot for Congress. But the secretary of states office deemed only 244 signatures valid out of the 1,844 that McCotters campaign filed.

An initial review of McCotters petitions showed many duplicate signatures, according to a spokeswoman from the secretary of states office. The problems with his petitions were so serious that state Attorney General Bill Schuette launched a fraud investigation into the signatures.

McCotter indicated he had no knowledge of the problems with his petitions until the secretary of state alerted him Friday. But Michigan insiders say the situation doesnt inspire much promise for his prospects in a write-in campaign.

If McCotter was this disorganized and incompetent, said Bill Ballenger, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, I dont hold out much hope for him.

comments powered by Disqus




Want Roll Call on your doorstep?