Right to Life gives birth to party rivalry

Analysis

This article is based upon which State House candidates will get the endorsement from the Michigan Right to Life. The only people cited in this story are candidates and a representative from Michigan Right to Life. The article does look at how Michigan Right to Life selects those candidates which they endorse, but there is no exploration in this article about how that influences electoral politics. The story mentions that getting the Right to Life endorsement “gives candidates access to a monster mailing list of committed voters and a conservative credential to trumpet in campaign literature,” but doesn’t investigate how that impacts elections. The focus is on candidates running in the GOP primary for the State House seat currently held by Jerry Kooiman, but it does mention that the Democratic candidate for that seat, Robert Dean, already has the endorsement of Right to Life. Does that mean that the GOP primary winner and Dean will both get the Right to Life endorsement? The article also does not look at any campaign contributions that Michigan Right to Life has made and whether or not that influences the outcome of any election.

Article Text

In West Michigan Republican primaries, Right to Life’s endorsement is political gold.

The stamp of approval gives candidates access to a monster mailing list of committed voters and a conservative credential to trumpet in campaign literature.

So Tim Doyle was disappointed four years ago when he didn’t get a thumbs-up from Right to Life of Michigan in his GOP race against Bill Hardiman — now state Sen. Hardiman.

This year, Doyle’s fortunes have changed.

The assistant Kent County prosecutor snagged Right to Life’s backing in his state House primary against lawyer Chris Meyer and Sue DeVries, who works as the West Michigan protection manager for the Nature Conservancy. The three are seeking to replace Rep. Jerry Kooiman, R-Grand Rapids, who will leave office because of term limits.

“Obviously, Right to Life in a Republican primary in West Michigan is a big deal,” Doyle said.

It is also a fine line. Doyle and Meyer claim to be anti-abortion. DeVries supports abortion rights and did not participate in Right to Life’s endorsement process.

Meyer failed to gain Right to Life’s support because he recognizes three exceptions to an abortion ban: in cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. Right to Life recognizes only the third.

“I am pro-life,” said Meyer, recounting how his earliest fundraising efforts in the 1980s were on behalf of Right to Life. “I’m disappointed I didn’t receive their endorsement, because they are an organization so closely aligned with my own views on the sanctity of life.”

Right to Life normally doesn’t endorse in West Michigan GOP primaries, where almost all candidates meet their criteria.

Where all candidates are Right-to-Life approved, all are labeled “qualified,” but none receives the group’s explicit endorsement and the extra boost that goes with it.

That’s true, for instance, in the crowded race to replace Rep. William Van Regenmorter, R-Georgetown Township. Ten Republicans want his job. None will be endorsed in the primary. All those that Right to Life considers “viable” — all but one — will be able to claim to meet the criteria set by Right to Life.

The same is true of seven of the eight Republicans — all those considered serious candidates — lined up to run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Barbara Vander Veen, R-Allendale.

Where just one serious candidate in a primary doesn’t toe the Right to Life line, though, all bets are off. That was true in 2002, when Doyle squared off against Hardiman, a former Kentwood mayor, and former Grand Rapids School Board President Brian Craig.

Craig wasn’t Right-to-Life qualified, but he clearly was a serious contender. Doyle and Hardiman met Right to Life’s standards.

In that case, the local endorsing committee made a political calculation. They decided Hardiman was the better-funded candidate, the most likely to succeed in the primary.

The purpose of picking a candidate in such a case is to “unite the pro-life vote, not let it split and allow a pro-abortion candidate to get in,” said Larry Galmish, the political action committee director for Right to Life of Michigan. “Sometimes, it’s a very hard choice to make if there are two or more pro-life candidates.”

In the case of the DeVries-Doyle-Meyer race, two candidates failed to measure up in Right to Life’s estimation.

If Right to Life’s endorsement helps catapult Doyle to victory in the Aug. 8 primary, he won’t enjoy the same advantage in the fall election against former Grand Rapids City Commissioner Robert Dean. Dean, a Democrat, is Right-to-Life approved.

“Assuming all things remain equal, we would probably say both meet criteria,” Galmish said.

Author: mediamouse

Grand Rapids independent media // mediamouse.org