Novi — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley survived a contentious nomination fight at Saturday’s Republican state convention, fending off challenger Wes Nakagiri and rejoining Gov. Rick Snyder on the November ballot.
Unofficial election results showed Calley defeating Nakagiri by a two-to-one margin in a highly anticipated showdown between tea party conservatives and the GOP’s establishment leadership, which worked behind the scenes for a year to defend Calley at the convention.
At the end of the convention, Nakagiri conceded the race and moved for unanimous approval of Calley’s nomination.
“It’s important that we look forward, be unified and defeat the Democrats,” Nakagiri said in his concession speech.
Snyder and Calley will square off against Democrat Mark Schauer and Oakland County clerk Lisa Brown, respectively, and third party candidates in the Nov. 4 general election.
The state Republican convention was the culmination of a contentious year-long behind-the-scenes battle waged by Snyder’s allies to protect Calley through recruiting and electing delegates who would pledge their support for the incumbent.
“I look at this whole experience and all the energy, the excitement, the determination, the enthusiasm that we saw out there on the convention floor (and) now it’s time for that to pointed toward November,” Calley said after winning the nomination. “And I believe that coming out of this experience, that the party itself and the grassroots has never been stronger.”
Snyder also called for unity in the GOP as Michigan’s air waves are already being flooded with advertising in the governor’s race.
“I would hope everybody will get behind the results of today,” Snyder told reporters.
Bill Kostin, a delegate from Plymouth Township and Nakagiri supporter, said after the convention he would not vote for Snyder and Calley in the general election and leave that portion of his ballot blank. The retired Ford engineer doesn’t see much difference between policies Snyder supports and those Schauer would likely embrace, if elected.
“I will only vote for conservatives,” Kostin said. “The Democrats are racing toward socialism. The Republicans are walking.”
Snyder suggested the passion of tea party members at the state convention is evidence that they’ll turn out to the polls in November.
“I haven’t seen a real issue with that,” Snyder said. “I see people motivated to vote. That’s party of the democratic process — people showed up today. … People can respectfully disagree, have different positions. But in the end, you say we have a lot in common about how we can be successful together.”
Michigan Republican Party officials did not release an official vote tally after Nakagiri bowed out.
But GOP strategist Greg McNeilly, head of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund group that recruited delegates to support Calley, said unofficial results showed Calley defeating Nakagiri, 1,345 to 716, giving Calley 65 percent of the vote.
Nearly 5,000 Republicans gathered Saturday at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi as 2,124 delegates chose statewide candidates for the November general election. .
Other winners in the nominating contests included:
■Ron Weiser and Dr. Rob Steele for two seats on the University of Michigan Board of Regents.
■Maria Carl and Jonathan Williams for two seats on the State Board of Education.
■Michael Busuito and Satish Jasti for the Wayne State University Board of Governors.
■Melanie Foster and Jeff Sakwa for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees.
Snyder pushed for the renomination of his lieutenant governor at the start of the convention. He touted Calley’s leadership in reforming and lowering taxes for businesses and reforming the state’s mental health system. A Calley campaign video shown at the convention called the lieutenant governor “a leading architect” of Michigan’s right-to-work law.
“Brian Calley is the best lieutenant governor in the United States,” Snyder said in a speech to state convention delegates. “He’s a strong conservative voice in our administration. We don’t always see eye-to-eye, but he speaks up … and we work as a team.”
The GOP convention exposed a division between Snyder and Calley on Common Core education standards for K-12 schools.
While delivering the nominating speech for Calley, U.S. Rep. Justin Amash, R-Cascade Township, said Calley will “push back” on Common Core education standards — a popular rallying cry among Nakagiri’s tea party supporters.
Snyder has endorsed Common Core and pushed for its full implementation in K-12 schools.
The governor said there’s been “a lot of misinformation” spread about Common Core but declined to say whether Calley has internally opposed the national education strategy.
“We don’t talk about our differences publicly,” Snyder told reporters while the voting was on-going.
But after winning the nomination, Calley explained his opposition to the policy lies with the federal government seeking to penalize states that don’t adopt the standards.
Although the results were resoundingly in favor of Calley, the two men worked the convention hall up until the voting began trying to woo undecided delegates.
Nakagiri, an automotive engineering manager from Hartland, said some delegates were under pressure to not buck Snyder and GOP leaders.
“There’s still a lot of people that have come up to me and said ‘I’m voting for you but I can’t wear your sticker because I have to stay under the radar,’” Wes Nakagiri told The Detroit News.
While the Calley-Nakagiri was billed as the marquee matchup, a hotly contested race for two nominations for the University of Michigan Board of Regents also dominated the intra-party politicking Saturday.
Former state GOP chairman Ron Weiser and Dr. Rob Steele won two nominations for the U-M board over former regent Dan Horning and state party treasurer Carl Meyers.
Weiser, an Ann Arbor real estate developer, spent nearly $131,000 before the convention to win support of GOP activists.
Delegates also formally nominated Attorney General Bill Schuette, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and Supreme Court candidates James Robert Redford and incumbent Justices David Viviano and Brian Zahra, who all ran unopposed at the GOP nominating convention.
Land attacks Peters’ record on equal pay
During the morning session, U.S. Senate candidate Terri Lynn Land railed on the record of her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township.
“Congressman Peters … while holding himself out as a champion of women, pays 67 cents on the dollar to women for every dollar he pays men. Can you say hypocrisy?” said Land, referencing a disputed Republican study of Peters’ congressional office staff salary data. “… He pays his women (employees) substandard wages, but says he’s for women’s rights.”
Land has said working mothers want flexible schedules, not just the same pay rate as their male counterparts.
“After 16 recent polls show that Republican Terri Lynn Land continues to lose trust with Michigan women because she doesn’t support equal pay and would restrict contraception like birth control, she is now stooping to lies and false attacks,” Peters spokeswoman Haley Morris said Saturday.
In recent weeks, Land has rolled out a campaign slogan of “Michigan First,” vowing to prioritize the state’s interests over special interest groups in Washington.
Speaking from a prepared speech Saturday, Land sought to blame Peters for Michigan getting less federal transportation funding than Michiganians pay in federal gas taxes annually.
“He keeps voting for this every year,” Land said of the highway funding bill.
Peters and fellow Democrats are gathering in Lansing this weekend for their party’s nominating convention.