Who are the NERD fund donors Mr Snyder?
Interview With Norm Shinkle - Candidate for MIGOP Coalitions Vice-Chair
With the 2011 MIGOP State Convention right around the corner, so to speak, the candidates for the various state party offices have been touring the various county and regional events relentlessly in order to engage Convention Delegates and attempt to secure their votes. Saturday afternoon I sat down with Norm Shinkle, one of the candidates for MIGOP Coalitions Vice-Chair.
Kevin: Good afternoon, Norm. I understand you were at an event in Wayne County yesterday. How'd that go?
Norm: You're talking about the Reagan Roundup. It's an annual event hosted by the 15th District in Wayne County, and they usually invite the Wayne County Republicans from the 13th and 14th too. Ten of the state party candidates were there (including both of the candidates for Grassroots, Ethnic, and Youth).
I'm a Monroe County native, and was active in 15th District politics back then, so this was sort of like going back home for me. I had recruited poll challengers from this district for the 2010 elections, so I know the Wayne County Republican leadership really well. I also had a long conversation with Justice Zahra; Governor Snyder did a really good thing picking him for the Supreme Court.
Kevin: There were some surprises on that side of Michigan last year.
Norm: Our biggest surprise was the 23rd House District. (Pat Somerville beat Deb Kennedy by about 2,000 votes). In South Wayne County that's not easy. But we did that because we had Colbeck and Steele further up the ticket, and we turned out the conservative vote.
The 84th House District (Tuscola County) was a great win, too. (Kurt Damrow beat Terry Brown by 19 votes.) We weren't sure about this one for a long time; but about two weeks out, we realized that this one was winnable. So the State Party dumped a bunch of money in to fund the last ten days so we could win this seat.
Those two races right there show you the advantage of a good party infrastructure - with the grassroots engaged at every level - that's well funded. In past cycles, we wouldn't have had the money available to dump into a close east side race; it would've already been committed somewhere else.
One of the things that Ron Weiser had me doing was recruiting heavily in urban areas, because he wanted every slot on the ballot filled. So what I wound up doing was getting some people active in the Republican Party that weren't there before.
Kevin: And I understand that recruiting also involved recruiting poll challengers.
Norm: Yes, which is always a challenge, because many people don't want to go into some of these problem precincts and face what they're going to face. But recruiting poll challengers was also how Bobby Schostak became more involved and engaged with the grassroots. It wasn't that he wasn't involved before, he was, but this got him down in the trenches.
The tea partiers actually did a really good job for us in Detroit. For instance, at Cobo Hall, which was the AV precinct for the entire city, I stopped by and checked on the RetakeOurGov (out of Livingston). These people, more than 15 of the 26 Republican challengers there, were solid and professional. Some of them stayed there until after 2:30 in the morning, to make sure that everything was squared away.
About half of all of our poll challengers in 2010 came from the Michigan Tea Party Alliance, and many of them even took the initiative in their training. Bill Bigler for instance, who co-founded the Willow Run Tea Party Caucus, was doing his own training in Ann Arbor. And it was good, quality training, too.
Kevin: And that brings me to my first scripted question: You're running for MIGOP Coalitions Vice-Chair. What does a Coalitions Vice-Chair do?
Norm: That vice-chair has a responsibility to build and maintain working relationships with other groups that tend to be republican-friendly, such as the Farm Bureau, National Rifle Association, and Right To Life. It's critical to make sure the working relationship is tight, and that you address any problems right away, because at some point you want to be able to recruit some of their members as campaign volunteers. Right now the new gorilla in the coalition is the Michigan Tea Party Alliance. They want us to get back to our party's roots, as well as our founding principles.
Kevin: So, how do you think your experience has helped prepare you for the role of Coalitions Vice-Chair?
Norm: Well, as the Chair of the State Board of Canvassers, I was one of the leaders in the effort to get the fake tea party booted off the ballot. And we did get them disqualified because of technical irregularities in their paperwork. Because of their involvement in this, I became really comfortable working with the tea party leaders. Their concern and mine was the same, and that was the deception factor.
In fact, I think it was at the final B-of-C meeting on the matter, the attorney for the fake tea party was initially a no-show. So what I did was to hold up their application to be on the ballot and ask everyone in the room if any of them would admit to being associated with this new party. In a room filled to capacity with tea partiers, no one stood up or raised their hand or anything else. And when that attorney finally did show up, he'd been delayed by traffic, he didn't have any explanation for the ballot application that made sense. (And he stated that only three people had received the notice for their convention.)
And, just as a sidebar, Governor Snyder has told me that he intends to reappoint me to the B-of-C, but I think that the Democrat faces on that board may change.
So for the rest of the campaign I built a relationship with the tea party people by coordinating with them on their poll challenging efforts.
Kevin: Which brings me to scripted question # 3. Assuming you're elected to the post you seek, how do you see yourself advancing the MIGOP strategy for the 2012 election cycle?
Norm: What I'm going to do is build the state party's relationship with the tea party movement, and I'm going to do it in a way that builds on the relationships with the rest of the coalition members. The Farm Bureau, they're free-market people. Right-to-Life, NRA, I think that even the homeschoolers are going to become a part of the coalition. All these groups have something in common: They want the government out of where it doesn't belong, and to stick to what it's supposed to do without a bunch of useless regulations.
Again, another side note. I did a lot of work with Chris Dingell - John Dingell's son - on Second Amendment issues. He's a pro-NRA Democrat.
I've also built a vice-chair group that we call "Team GOP For Victory In '12." Who I've got on this team is:
Kevin: Okay, what about the Youth Vice-Chair?
Norm: I'm going to leave that one alone. Both of the candidates are stellar, and I can work with either one of them.
The big thing is that we have to stress the importance of everyone pulling in the same direction. 2012 will be more important than 2010, and tougher. The vice-chair team I'm working with is going to set the example by working as a team, and doing what needs to be done to win in '12.
Kevin: Okay, a hot topic this week (for many reasons) has been Governor Snyder's very first State of the State address, delivered this past Wednesday. Any thoughts on that?
Norm: Well, I would have preferred some more details and some more serious topics. I thought it was a good speech overall, but the budget plan is going to show us what the Governor's real priorities are.
I personally support Right-to-Work. And what I think is going to happen is that we're going to get the budget done first, and then we'll start seeing some of these other things come up. The House wants RTW, and I think what's happening is that Speaker Bolger is sitting on the bill until the budget's signed.
Kevin: And yet, something done last week was that Representative McMillan re-introduced the Michigan HealthCare Freedom Act, which rejects the individual mandate of the federal health care bill from last year. Is that something that you support?
Norm: I'm absolutely behind it. ObamaCare is nothing but a boondoggle, and we need to push back as hard as we can against it. I think that the federal House needs to at least defund it and stall it until we can flip the Senate and win the Presidency.
Kevin: Now there's some talk going around that, yes we should get Right-to-Work and HealthCare Freedom enacted statutorily, but that we should also put them on the ballot in 2012. The logic is that a statute can always be turned over later by another legislature, but a constitutional amendment locks the change in.
Norm: I think that's solid logic. Put them on the ballot, get them voted in, back up the statute with a constitutional change. But with Right-to-Work we may have a case of dueling ballot initiatives, because the unions may try to overturn the statute and defeat the amendment proposal. So we have to be ready for that.
Kevin: The Michigan FairTax Proposal is also being discussed as a potential ballot initiative for 2012. What are your thoughts on that one?
Norm: I think that's the best idea to give our economy a big boost. It gets rid of all of the business taxation that's driving businesses out of this state. It taxes the underground economy, the drug dealers, and across the board it provides a net tax reduction for the honest taxpayer.
Kevin: How concerned are you about the statement from MDP Chairman, Mark Brewer, that about 80% of Gov. Snyder's address could have been delivered by a Democrat?
Norm: Mark Brewer's credibility is so low that I don't care what he says. He's likely not telling the truth anyway, just blowing smoke.
In fact, and you're going to love this, right now I'm not sure that the UAW is going to be able to keep him in his position as the MDP Chair. He's got a fight on his hands, because Jocelyn Benson is trying to leverage into that spot. The question becomes which one of them is better for us, because Benson's just as guilty of being a fraudulent snake as Brewer is. The way I see it, it's the snake we know or the snake we don't know.
Kevin: The tea party movement is, so far as I know, aware that any substantive success politically has to be accomplished within the framework of the Republican Party. But many have a running problem with what they view as "moderates" or "centrists" -- RINOs if you will -- still in positions of control and influence within the GOP, whether as elected officials or as party officers. How do you think that should be constructively addressed?
Norm: First off, I think you have to define and educate. Make sure that people know what the difference is between a liberal and a moderate. The way I think about it, a liberal is someone who'll vote with the Democrats more often than with us, and a moderate is someone who is not a committed conservative. As far as RINOs go, the way you deal with them is to either educate them while they're in office or beat them in their next primary. But being a RINO is getting much tougher than it used to be.
Kevin: Okay, what are your thoughts on the Independence Caucus of Michigan, which is a PAC allied with the MTPA?
Norm: Steve Kuivenhoven is a really big promoter of the I-Caucus, and that's how I learned about them. See, I believe perception isn't reality, truth is reality. But the question becomes, who's defining the truth in the public arena?
What the I-Caucus does is the in-depth research on candidates, and then they educate voters as to who's a credible conservative and who isn't. They're new to the scene though, so they don't yet have the high-profile clout that they'll need as leverage to "encourage" candidates to vet with them. As long as the I-Caucus stays credible, they'll build that clout; and as long as they stay credible, I'll recommend that anyone wanting to get on the Republican side of the ballot go through their vetting process.
Kevin: Fair enough. Okay, 2012 is the year we get a chance to "pink slip" Senator Debbie Stabenow. I've heard somewhere in the immediate vicinity of a half-dozen names circulating as potential Republican challengers. Do you have any thoughts on who should be that challenger?
Norm: Whoever can beat her. She's from Ingham County, and I've known her since my time in the Michigan Legislature. I know that she's very clever as a politician, very disarming and tough to pin down on issues. I have some ideas, but I'm not going to make any endorsements or recommendations.
I've heard Candice Miller, Rob Steele, Dave Camp, and Mike Rogers all mentioned as possible challengers; they're good, but the problem with all of them is that we're now talking about pulling a credible incumbent (challenger in the case of Steele) from a congressional race. Pete Hoekstra would be a good choice; he has good statewide credibility and legislative experience. Saul Anuzis is a very energetic campaigner with credibility, but he hasn't ever held an elected office before.
But like I said, none of this is a recommendation or an endorsement.
Kevin: Okay, are you willing to share any thoughts on who you think might be a solid choice to run against President Obama?
Norm: Again, anyone who can win. Because our goal is to elect a Republican president; and I'll tell you who can't win: John McCain, or anyone like him. I think that what's going on with Sarah Palin is an example of perception isn't reality, and she's one of the front-runners right now (along with Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee). There's also Tim Pawlenty, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, and some others. We've got many good people who could be the nominee, but it's going to depend on how the race unfolds publicly, and I'm not ready to comment on that just yet.
Kevin: And there's going to be some debate about that in the coming months. Let's close the deal. As a Convention Delegate, why should I vote for you? What's your sales pitch, Mr. Shinkle?
Norm: I have a lifetime of experience with the various coalitions that I would be working with. I have a working relationship with the tea party alliance that's based on respect, and I have a solid working relationship with Bobby Schostak. I'm one component of a much larger leadership team that is going to be pushing for the Republican win for Michigan in 2012.
Kevin: Thank you very much for your time, sir.
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