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The Mechanics of Takeover
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
As I published in June of last year, what the combined grassroots effort accomplished at the May Convention was impressive, but only the first battle of a much longer campaign that will be necessary in order to purge the Republican Party in Michigan (at every level) of the blueblood elites that have taken over the party establishment. At the time, I mentioned that the reach of the broom needed to extend all the way down to the county executive committees where necessary, and I provided at strategic overview of what would need to be done to effect the end goal. At this point, regardless of how it worked out, phases 1 through 4 are complete. Since we only have four weeks to work with, we need to stay tightly focused on phase 5 of the plan, and we must use our time wisely.
So with that in mind, grab a pot of coffee and a snack plate, and let's go below the fold.
Given the party shenanigans last year, it's probably not a stretch to say that the Michigan Republican Party's love affair with the tea party movement has cooled considerably. Heaven forbid the newbies get any substantive access to the internal levers of party power. Why, they might foul up a well-oiled patronage system that's more interested in political status than in actually delivering electoral results. Best to keep the grassroots shock troops on a short leash until they're needed again two years from now.
Of course, it shouldn't be surprising that the aforementioned blueblood elites are circling their wagons to protect the seat of one of their own. I found the Michigan Republican Convention Survey e-mailed out earlier this week to be a tad interesting:
As I pointed out back in March of last year, the reality is that that those seeking to flip any seats at the state convention (or even the district caucus) have about eight days to get their act together, if that many. I say this because a fairly common occurrence is for delegates to be selected at their respective county conventions based upon whom they're going to support at district caucus or state convention, and I know from hard experience that the incumbents (or those who have the favor of the existing establishment) will be throwing every roadblock they can in the way of the tea party insurgency, whether procedural or logistical or anything else. This means that the challengers have to have their procedural and logistical ducks absolutely lined up . . . in advance.
Let's quickly review the overview of phase 5, and then discuss it in some detail:
Elect chairman, state committee, etc. (2013 State Convention/District Caucuses)
We start, of course, by familiarizing ourselves with the 2013 version of the convention rules and the 2012 version of the party bylaws, so that we can hold the current establishment accountable to their own rules, should they wish to try anything funny. We should also make a point of getting our hands on copies of the county and district by-laws (where they exist) . . . again, for the purposes of making sure that the establishment is playing by their own rules. Being familiar with Robert's Rules of Order will also come in handy.
The next thing we need to do is become familiar with the updated convention delegation apportionment (both by county and by district). The numbers have been rearranged a bit from the 2012 version, because for this convention and the convention in 2014 the apportionment is based on the republican presidential vote instead of the republican Secretary of State vote. This is so we know how many slots we need to fill, and because there's a dozen different reasons that an alternate could get elevated (and they get elevated by county), we need to pay attention to packing the ranks of the alternates in each county delegation with as many pro-Courser people as possible . . . just in case. Rule # 12 provides the details for the elevation of alternates, and the pro-Courser coalition would do well to plan their county convention strategy accordingly.
Expect a lot of jockeying at the county conventions, and be prepared for procedural and delegate assignment shenanigans. The current establishment will use every trick at their disposal to pack pro-Schostak delegates into every available slot coming out of the county conventions . . . so be ready, and make them fight for every single vacancy. Also, the pro-Courser coalition needs to use every means at its disposal to keep a record of who was actually selected as delegates and alternates coming out of each county (video recordings, transcribed copies of the approved delegations, and so forth).
According to Rule # 9, the county reports are due to state party headquarters by 5:00 p.m. on Monday, February 11th. That same rule requires these reports to be made available to: (1) any State Convention candidate, or his or her representative; or (2) any delegate to the county convention in question. This is so that credentials challenges, pursuant to Rule # 8-C, can be filed in a timely fashion. Here's where the pro-Courser forces keeping a county-by-county record of who was actually selected as delegates and alternates will come in handy. If the record doesn't agree with the report, then a challenge needs to be filed (with supporting evidence) forthwith.
The deadline to file credentials challenges, specified in Rule # 8-C, is 11:59 p.m. on Monday, February 11th. That's a seven-hour window from when the county reports are due to when the challenge deadline lapses. If it were me, the pro-Courser coalition should start politely inquiring of the county party staff for copies of the report starting at about noon on Friday, February 8th, as to the status of the county report . . . and start getting really persistent if that report isn't in hand by 9:00 a.m. on Monday. It would not be out of the question to file a preemptive challenge (provided that it can be backed up by the independent record) if the county report isn't in hand by 4:55 p.m. . . . it's been done before.
The intervening two weeks between the county conventions and the district caucuses are going to have the delegates and alternates on the receiving end of robo-calls, e-mails, campaign mailers, surveys, and whip calls. (Hey, this is the price of being a convention delegate.) There's a reason for this. As anyone who's managed a convention campaign can probably tell you, just as a lawyer should never ask a witness-on-the-stand a question to which the lawyer doesn't already know the answer, there's no reason that a convention (whether district caucus or general session) should be called to order without a candidate for election knowing within ±5% what his vote totals are.
It won't be just the two candidates for state chair either. It'll also be the candidates for the contested vice-chair seats as well as contested district seats. The liberty coalition (tea party movement, liberty caucus, and so forth) learned their lesson at the January 2011 State Convention; this time I expect that they'll be storming the gates and uninterested in taking prisoners, which I forecast even then.
Caucus Night Follies
At the district caucuses (Friday, February 22nd, starting at 5:00 p.m.), according to the convention rules (starting on page 10, which is page 12 of the PDF), the following seats are up for election in each district:
Just so we're clear, the election of the Convention Vice Chair (to preside as Chair of the District Caucus) and the Assistant Secretary (to serve as Secretary of the District Caucus), as well as the appointment of the caucus officers, have nothing to do with the election of the actual District Committee positions that will be served for the next two years. So unless there's a real and verifiable concern with the competence of either nominee, leave them be. Fighting these two seats, unless there's an airtight reason to do so, is just petty.
Convention Rule # 11 specifies that, "All congressional district caucuses shall follow Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised on matters not covered by these Rules." Now, some districts have district bylaws and some don't, and under normal circumstances the bylaws would override in conflicts with either the convention rules or Robert's Rules, but here's the thing . . . Earlier this week I had a conversation with the sitting 2nd District Chairman. In that conversation, I learned that Eric Doster, the state party's General Counsel, had ruled that, for those districts that do have bylaws, if even one of the 25 voting members of the District Committee now live outside the district (due to the 2011 reapportionment), then the district bylaws are null and void until they can be re-ratified by a district committee consisting entirely of members residing within the current boundaries of the district, thus after the closing gavel of the District Caucus.
So, if the District Chair, or any of the district leadership for that matter, tries to say that the district bylaws prohibit whatever it is that you're doing, the easy response is to insist that they prove that: (a) the bylaws actually exist, and (b) that Mr. Doster has ruled that those bylaws are valid. If both can't be proven, then the bylaws don't matter, which means that Robert's Rules are the rule in any instance not covered by the convention rules.
Here's why that matters. While the convention rules allow for the option of competing slates at the county conventions (if the county bylaws so permit), no such option is provided for at the district caucus or general session. Nevertheless, it's not uncommon for incumbent district chairs, or the "next in line" if the chair is stepping down, to attempt to advance a slate of candidates for the remaining 24 seats on the District Committee. (There's any number of reasons for doing this; and I can't think of a single one that'd be considered champion in its purpose.) Robert's Rules provide for a grand total of two methods of handling the district elections, and a slate approach isn't one of them. This is a violation of the rules, requiring unanimous consent to proceed, and should the Caucus Chair seem inclined to allow a slate approach to proceed, all it takes is one member of the delegation to voice objection (and keep saying it until it's obvious that the chair gets it)
For the elections of the 25 members of the District Committee, there are two options under Robert's Rules:
The final thing to keep in mind here is that for contested seats, an absolute majority of the ballots cast, ignoring only blanks, is necessary to win the election. The caucus tellers are supposed to report the vote totals when reporting the results, along with the number of non-blank ballots cast and the number votes needed for majority. If they fail to do so, then this is another cause for an objection from the floor. (Keep in mind that votes cast for an ineligible person does count as being part of the total ballots cast, and thus will affect the number needed for majority.) If, for any particular position, a majority isn't achieved, then that spot - only - is revoted as often as necessary until a majority is achieved (or until all but one contender has dropped out of consideration).
Now keep in mind that, in order to accomplish anything useful in the several caucuses, the liberty coalition has to: (1) work as a team, (2) occupy at least 40% of the voting delegate slots - assuming that we can peel off at least 20% of the establishment voters who are dissatisfied with the status quo, and (3) don't make an issue out of something that isn't worth the fight.
General Session Notes and Final Thoughts
As with the May and September conventions last year, don't be overly surprised if the blueblood elites try to pull a fast one as a way to box out the liberty coalition. However, keep in mind that they'll also lob out red herrings as well, as a way to distract us from what we need to be focused on. Know what is and isn't worth objecting to. We are, in effect, going after the king; so those who have a vested interest in his retaining office will utilize every procedural and logistical roadblock, hurdle, and distraction they have in their bag of tricks to throw the liberty coalition off of their game. And while they're at it, those same elites will twist any arm and offer up any deal (including 1:00 a.m. phone calls from elected executives) to pry away support that they can't peel off . . . be ready, and keep the contingency plans quiet.
I'll also recommend that the liberty coalition keep a minimum of two pairs of eyes on the district voting machines at all times. (Do this in a way that's unintrusive.) Consider it the convention equivalent of poll watching. One of the two observers should jot down the numbers from the machine strip as soon as it's printed and run it up to someone on the team who'll be keeping tabs on things at the teller's table. This way, we have a backup record of what the numbers are supposed to be.
As with the district caucuses, know what your vote totals are in advance of the convention being called to order.
At this point I'll bet that there are several of you who by now are wondering why I'm telegraphing strategy to the opposition. What makes you think they don't already have all this figured out?
The Mechanics of Takeover | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)
The Mechanics of Takeover | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)
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+ 2012 version of the party bylaws
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