Chaos at county conventions: Why it matters

MichMash hosts Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk with Craig Mauger of The Detroit News about last week’s raucous conventions and what happens next.

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It has been a bumpy road for Michigan Republicans as they decide which candidates to put up for attorney general, secretary of state and other statewide positions.

As part of the weekly series MichMash, Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth speak with Detroit News reporter Craig Mauger about the GOP’s raucous county conventions.


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The top of the Democratic ticket is pretty much a lock. Dana Nessel is up for attorney general. Jocelyn Benson will run again for secretary of state. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is primed for another nomination for governor. But the Republicans have no such certainty at this point. There are a dozen candidates for governor, three for attorney general and four for secretary of state.

The recent county conventions are a part of the winnowing down process that Republicans are undergoing to figure out their ticket. The county conventions will select delegates to the statewide GOP nominating convention this Saturday. That convention will choose the party’s nominees for attorney general, secretary of state and other statewide positions.

Mauger says this year’s drama at the county-level conventions is not completely unusual. These conventions can be breeding grounds for upheaval.

“It’s all about the future of the Republican Party”

“The fiercest fights in politics are not between Democrats and Republicans. They’re those internal struggles — family member versus family member, friend versus friend. And that’s where it gets really nasty,” he says.

“It’s a struggle because it’s all about the future of the Republican Party and Donald Trump,” Mauger says.

And this year, that struggle has been overtaking the conventions across the state. Some have refused to let reporters into the conventions, leading to confusion and pushback over whether this is allowed.

“These are these are people who are picked to go to these county conventions through a taxpayer-funded election,” Mauger says.

“These are officials the voters pick to have a say in the party. The Republican bylaws appear to suggest that these meetings are supposed to be open to the public. But the Republican Party is also saying that they have a different reading on that and that it’s up to the county chairs to decide whether us members of the media get into the meetings.”

Shouting, leadership fights and a “mysterious air horn”

Mauger says the meetings that media were able to attend have been “intense,” particularly in Macomb County where there is a massive fight for control of the party.

“This meeting had roughly about 600 people at it, there was shouting, there were people getting in each other’s faces,” Mauger says. “And there was some type of mysterious air horn that was being blown throughout the night to try to disrupt the meetings.”


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Authors

  • 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.

  • 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.