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The Lowdown


State Republican "insiders" speaking to the MIRS Capitol Capsule newsletter on June 26 ( — subscription required) warned that some TEA Party activists are trying to push a candidate for the state Senate "too far to the right." They refer to former state Rep. Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek, who is one of two Republicans seeking to fill a Michigan Senate vacancy created as a result of the previous officeholder winning a seat in the U.S. Congress last November. Republican primary voters will select either Nofs or James C. Wellman, R-Parma, in an Aug. 4 special primary election. The winner will face a Democratic opponent and Libertarian Greg Merle in a Nov. 3 special general election.

While Nofs is widely considered the favorite to win the GOP primary, one of the groups responsible for organizing a 5,000-person TEA Party at the Michigan Capitol on April 15 is actively seeking to inform GOP primary voters in the district that the former state representative is insufficiently sensitive to the pocketbook issues that most concern the TEA Party ("Taxed Enough Already") movement. A "Truth Squad Lit Drop" was conducted by the "New Patriot Revolution" in the Senate district on June 27 for the purpose of distributing fliers about "Mike Nofs' tax and spend record."

The fliers are headlined: "We like Mike Nofs. We just don't like his voting record." They use numerous votes that were covered in past issues of Michigan Capitol Confidential while Nofs was in office. Each is portrayed as a vote contrary to what the NPR believes is in the best interests of Michigan taxpayers. Most of the votes spotlight areas where Nofs voted with the Democratic majority, while many (if not most) of his fellow Republicans voted the other way.

The "number one reason" of 10 listed concerns on the flier regarding Nofs' legislative record was his being responsible "for $1.1 BILLION out of $1.4 billion of the spending created by the $1.4 billion tax hikes of 2007." As a point of comparison, the flier notes that four GOP state representatives then serving with Nofs voted for spending less than $7.6 million of the "tax fueled spending," and that many other GOP legislators stayed "well under $200 million." (This spending record for all legislators was profiled in the January/February 2008 Michigan Capitol Confidential.)

The NPR flier also notes that Nofs was one of just 16 Republicans to vote for a Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth budget "that increased general fund spending by nearly 60 percent" (see related story, "Left Behind," on the cover), and that he was one of three GOP representatives to vote against "allowing Terri Land to consolidate (Secretary of State) offices to save money." The flier suggests that the vote regarding Land's proposal "is a big one" because "faced with a (department) that WANTED to cut its spending, he [Nofs] voted to STOP it."

Perhaps interesting in relation to one of the Democrats seeking to win the special election, the NPR recounts that Nofs was one of three Republicans to vote to keep a "special benefit loophole" for the teacher retirement system, and one of four to vote to protect a "public school employee union's costly health benefit plan from competition" ( Though a large majority of Democrats — along with Nofs — voted to protect these programs, state Rep. Martin Griffin, D-Jackson, is one of the few Democrats who broke ranks and voted with the Republicans in each case. This is significant because Griffin is one of two Democrats hoping to win the Aug. 4 special primary. (Sharon Renier, D-Munith, is the other Democrat seeking to win the primary.)

Michigan's largest "public school employee union" with the "costly health benefit plan" being protected in the vote mentioned above is the Michigan Education Association. Although most of its recommendations traditionally go to Democratic candidates, Nofs claims on his campaign Web site that the union has endorsed him in past races. And tellingly, MIRS ran a story in April speculating that the union may support Nofs in the special election because it was upset with Griffin for voting against its wishes on the health insurance matter. "He can have them," Griffin replied when confronted with this possibility.

For their part, the New Patriot Revolution has no intention of supporting any candidate for any office. "We don't elect politicians," says NPR spokesperson Wendy Day. "We un-elect them." 

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Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.