A collection of tea party groups from across Michigan are expecting to choose their U.S. Senate candidate Feb. 25 in Mt Pleasant. The event is called the Michigan 4 Conservative Senate (MI4CS) Straw Poll Convention.
The convention is being held to determine which U.S. Senate candidate the selected tea parties will support for the GOP nomination. By backing one candidate, MI4CS aims to maximize the impact of the tea party on the race, rather than allowing it to be minimized by dividing votes between multiple candidates.
MI4CS consists of more than 40 tea party groups. About 150 leaders, delegates and members are expected to attend the convention. The gathering, however, does not represent all tea party groups in Michigan.
“It's exciting to see the involvement and excitement being generated across the state regarding this election," said Cindy Gamrat, MI4CS facilitator.
But will tea party rank-and-file members follow through and support the candidate the convention picks?
“We can't say that for everyone,” Gamrat said. “But we believe a good deal of them will; especially when we're seeing other [tea party] groups talking about jumping in afterwards.”
Randy Bishop of the Northern Michigan Patriots has personally endorsed Gary Glenn, but that could change.
“Absolutely, I will be supporting the MI4CS candidate, who ever he is,” Bishop said.
Including Glenn, the convention will choose from eight candidates. The others are: Scotty Boman, Clark Durant, Randy Heckman, Pete Hoekstra, Peter Konetchy, Chuck Marino and Rick Wilson.
There will be three elimination rounds of voting to narrow the field to two. The three candidates who receive the fewest votes in the first round will be eliminated. The two receiving the least votes in the second round will be eliminated, and the candidate who receives the fewest votes in the third round will be eliminated.
A final vote will be taken between the two remaining candidates. The winning candidate will be endorsed by MI4CS.
“I don't know who is going to win on Saturday,” said David Wells of the Tea Party of Grand Rapids Riverside Patriots. “I've only heard reports from 12 of the 40-plus groups.”
Hoekstra, who is considered the Republican front runner, is one of the candidates who seems least likely to win at the convention. He failed to make an appearance at the final MI4CS forum/debate held on Jan. 14. Many tea party members consider Hoekstra to be the establishment candidate.
“I think we're looking for someone who is not your typical GOP Washington beltway candidate,” Wells said. “This effort is about getting someone who is a strong conservative.”
MI4CS tea party members around the state met with the candidates and attended debates and are selecting a candidate five months before the August Republican primary to have a greater impact on the race.
“Tea partiers recognize that the candidate we select will need time to campaign and raise money in order to have a chance to win,” Gamrat said.
The convention is scheduled to take place from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25 at Centennial Hall in Mt. Pleasant.