Influential Michigan Republicans agreed today on a vetting process to find a consensus write-in candidate for the GOP primary in the 11th district.
After huddling during an early morning meeting attended by potential write-in candidates, top local GOP leaders moved forward with a plan to back a preferred candidate no later than Monday after reviewing questionnaires scheduled to be submitted to a handful of hopefuls, according to a source with close knowledge of the 7:30 a.m. gathering.
Republican leaders decided against supporting reindeer rancher Kerry Bentivolio, the only GOP candidate who is on the Aug. 7 primary ballot. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R) announced over the weekend that he would retire after a major petitions snafu unexpectedly kept his name off the primary ballot.
A handful of Republicans had already expressed interest in a write-in bid, and Republicans agreed that supporting a consensus candidate was necessary to wage an effective write-in campaign. To resolve this, Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson called a meeting with other top GOP leaders, including former Attorney General Mike Cox and former Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.).
They came to a simple conclusion: Patterson will convene a smaller group to develop a questionnaire, meet with potential candidates and select the best-qualified Republican by the close of business on Monday.
"There's general consensus among everyone that that's the way to go," said one Michigan operative with close knowledge of the meeting. "There needs to be one consensus write-in, and there needs to be a fast process to get to that decision."
The operative said almost every interested write-in candidate attended the meeting and agreed to the process. They were former state Rep. Rocky Raczkowski, former state Sen. Loren Bennett and former House aide Paul Welday. Oakland County District Court Judge Kimberly Small did not attend, but she sent a representative.
GOP leaders will pick from the pool based on established criteria: high name identification, the ability to quickly form a political team, the ability to fundraise or self-fund the race, and lack of political baggage.
Republicans are in a hurry to mount this uphill battle to save the GOP-leaning seat northwest of Detroit. Write-in campaigns are notoriously expensive and difficult, and local officials will start sending out absentee ballots in less than a month.