MichMash: Do Running Mates Matter in Michigan’s Race for Governor?

Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk about Bill Schuette’s choice of Lisa Posthumus Lyons this week and whether these picks have an effect.

WDET Digital

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has made his choice for a running mate in his bid to become Michigan’s next governor. The Republican nominee has selected Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons as his pick to serve as lieutenant governor.

Lyons is a former state lawmaker. She chaired the state House Education Committee for a time as well as the House Elections and Ethics Committee. She was also an assistant majority floor leader.

Click here to find out more about Lyons and hear Stephen Henderson’s interview with both Lyons and Schuette.

As part of the weekly series MichMash, Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk about the pick and whether running mates even make a difference in these races.

Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.

What makes Lyons an interesting choice?

Schuette is a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump and spent part of the primary accusing fellow candidates of not supporting the president enough. But Lyons pulled her support of the president during the 2016 election, saying Trump had not earned her respect or her vote. Now, Lyons says she supports Trump and his policies.

Lyons dodged questions about this history and about whether she voted for Trump in 2016 during this week’s interview on WDET’s Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson.

Roth says Lyons’ past rebuke of Trump might actually be related to Schuette’s decision to choose her for the ticket.

“I think it’s possible that Republicans are seeing the writing on the wall that, while Trump is very popular with the base, you have a harder time bringing in those moderate Republicans and some of the independents,” says Roth. “So, they might be thinking that they need somebody to kind of soften the edges a little bit of the Schuette campaign when it comes to Donald Trump.”

Do these running mate selections make a difference?

The short answer: Not really. The long answer: Sort of. Maybe.

Bill Ballenger is publisher of the online Michigan political newsletter The Ballenger Report.

“It’s just hard to see evidence that in any election people actually vote for who the lieutenant governor choices are,” says Ballenger. “Most voters don’t even know who they are going into the voting booth and they pick whoever the gubernatorial nominees are going to be.”

Neher points out that there are other considerations when it comes to running mates, including internal party politics.

“Are there factions of your party that you need to appease?” Neher says. “And what about work ethic? Is this a running mate that’s going to help you with fundraising?”

In the end, historically speaking, running mates are more likely to hurt the ticket than help.

“So, Rule Number One is don’t mess this up,” says Neher.

What about the Democratic ticket? Do we know who will be Gretchen Whitmer’s running mate?

UPDATE: Yes we do! Whitmer has announced that Garlin Gilchrist II will be her choice for lieutenant governor. Find out more here.


  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.