Lieutenant governor isn't normally a highly-contested elected position in Michigan. But Gov. Rick Snyder's support of Medicaid expansion, which passed Tuesday, is creating a rift inside the state's GOP party.
Wes Nakagiri, a Tea Party activist from Hartland, Mich. said in a press release that he intends to challenge Lt. Gov. Brian Calley at the state's GOP convention in 2014. Calley was also briefly challenged in the 2010 state GOP convention by a Tea Party activist; Republicans are now considering a rule change that would bar all spontaneous nominations from the floor at conventions.
Nakagiri told the Detroit Free Press he's already filed paperwork to form a campaign committee.
"Tea Party Republicans, conservative Republicans, traditional Republicans and libertarian-leaning Republicans are strongly opposed to the proposed expansion of Medicaid and proposed increase in the gasoline tax,” he wrote in the release.
On Tuesday, Michigan narrowly voted to expand Medicaid to 470,000 low-income residents. If a tiebreaker had been needed (it passed 20-18), Calley, as lieutenant governor, would have cast the winning vote. He, like Snyder, supported expanding Medicaid to low-income residents who may not be able to afford private health insurance.
Crain's Detroit Business reported that Nakagiri was watching the voting from the Senate gallery on Tuesday, "wearing a name badge that encouraged a "no" vote on HB 4714 and a "yes" vote for his campaign to unseat Calley."
At a press conference after the vote on HB 4714, Calley said the bill was a victory for more than those residents who gained health coverage. "This is also a victory for those who are lovers of liberty," Calley said.
Nakagiri slammed Calley for that comment in a press release.
“That Lieutenant Govenor Calley views this huge expansion of government as a victory for those who value liberty indicates he is out of touch with his party or doesn’t understand the definition of liberty," he said.
WDIV-TV political reporter Mara McDonald reported that Michigan's lieutenant governor race could impact the Republican Party's statewide political strategy in 2014.
GOP sources tell Local 4 the rush to recruit friendly delegates for Calley is already ongoing. It's money, effort and time that could really be used elsewhere.
"Vital resources that could be used for actually winning and holding onto seats are going to be used on stickers and receptions for republican delegates," said political strategist Joe Munem.
Nakagiri also made it clear that Snyder's support of Medicaid expansion has hurt his standing with right-wing Republicans in Michigan.
“Many in the base of the Republican Party and the Tea Party have indicated that they will not vote for Gov. Snyder in 2014,” Nakagiri wrote, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Former Rep. Mark Schauer, a Democrat from Battle Creek, is challenging Snyder in the 2014 gubernatorial election. The Rothenberg Political Reports, which rate congressional and gubernatorial campaigns, calls Michigan's governor race a "pure-toss-up," arguing that many Democrats who helped give Snyder 58 percent of the vote in 2010 have been alienated by his passage of controversial right-to-work laws.
Wrote MLive political columnist Tim Skubick of the Tea Party challenge to Snyder's administration, "The silent cheer you hear over there are the Democrats who could not wish for more … a splintered GOP."