Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s embarrassing ballot flop and subsequent retirement has forced a tough choice on his fellow Republicans.
Will the GOP support the only Republican on the ballot in Michigan’s 11th district, a libertarian-leaning reindeer farmer with minimal political experience? Or will it try to fund a tested Republican in an uphill write-in campaign for the Aug. 7 primary?
In the wake of McCotter’s ballot failure, party leaders were squeamish about backing the candidate on the GOP ballot, teacher Kerry Bentivolio, for fear the unknown novice might lose the GOP-leaning seat to a Democrat. Republicans were leaning toward backing a write-in candidate, but they could not come to a consensus on whom to support to run in the Congressman’s stead.
“There’s no playbook for this. We’re sort of making this up as we go along,” said Paul Welday, a former House aide and one of several Republicans considering a write-in bid. “If we have two, three or more write-in candidates, then nobody will win.”
In addition to Welday, former state Rep. Rocky Raczkowski, Oakland County District Court Judge Kimberly Small and state Sen. Loren Bennett expressed interest in running a write-in campaign for the 11th district. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) counts Small as one of his longtime allies, but Republicans are fractured among the remaining potential candidates.
“There are conversations happening rapidly between the governor, [Oakland County Executive] Brooks Patterson and donors,” said one Michigan Republican operative who requested anonymity to speak candidly. “Everyone is really talking about it, and no one has a real answer or solution yet.”
For now, the National Republican Congressional Committee is taking a wait-and-see approach. NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) and House GOP leadership had quickly supported McCotter’s write-in bid after he failed to make the ballot.
“We are watching the race closely, and we are confident it will remain in Republican hands come November,” NRCC spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said.
McCotter failed to earn a spot on the primary ballot after his campaign turned in just a quarter of the required number of valid signatures to run for Congress in Michigan. His petitions were rife with discrepancies, duplicate signatures and alterations, according to state officials.
The errors were so egregious that the Michigan attorney general launched a criminal investigation into their collection last week. On Saturday night, the Congressman abandoned his five-day-old write-in bid, citing the ongoing probe.
Two longtime McCotter top aides, District Director Paul Seewald and Deputy District Director Don Yowchuang, were in charge of collecting the signatures, according to several Michigan Republican sources. McCotter’s petition listed Yowchuang as one of his circulators but not Seewald, according to Michigan secretary of state spokesman Fred Woodhams.
Phone and email messages to Seewald and Yowchuang’s official House accounts were not returned Monday. McCotter’s communications director did not return a request for comment about the pair of aides.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.