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Tea Party Has A Good Night With Wins In These 16 House Seats

July 22, 2016

With anti-establishment sentiment running high in the 2016 presidential election and the haphazard support base buoying Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, it is uncertain whether this year will be boon or bust for Tea Party candidates in the Aug. 2 primary House elections.

What is clear is that Tea Party groups like iCaucus or the Madison Project are not identifying preferred candidates through organized endorsements. Rather, conservative candidates who identify as fitting the “Platform Republican” mold are getting practical support from within the movement — professional consulting, fundraising and staffing. 

So while fewer candidates are running as Tea Party candidates, per se, since 2010, MIRS was able to identify 15 state House candidates who were identified by multiple political sources as fitting the conservative mold. 

The list was compiled based on ideology and isn’t necessarily a reflection on their viability as a candidate since some, clearly, have a better shot at success than others. 

In no particular order, the candidates are: 

1. Abigail Nobel – 80th 
Running on an anti-taxation, anti-regulation platform, nurse Abigail Nobel is running against incumbent Rep. Mary Whiteford (R-Casco Twp.) in the 80th House District. Nobel has been active with local Tea Party groups River City Activists and iCaucus. The River City group supported Republican National Committee delegate Dave Agema in 2014 when he was threatened with censure for his comments regarding the LGBT community. 

2. Jeff Noble – 20th 
Baptist pastor Jeff Noble is a Tea Party candidate running in the open 20th District. He has been promoted by the local “Rattle With Us” Tea Party group and has been endorsed by sitting Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton). Noble graduated from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., with a Master of Divinity degree. 

3. Katherine Henry – 86th 
Katherine Henryrunning in a five-way GOP primary in the 86th District, bills herself as a “Christian conservative,” placing limited government, simplified taxes, Second Amendment rights and pro-life advocacy at the top of her priorities list. Henry’s campaign website features photos of her with former Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Henry is also one of only two House candidates to have garnered Colbeck’s stamp of approval. Jeff Johnson was also flagged in this district has having Platform Republican credentials, but Henry is perceived as being more politically viable. 

4. Orlando Estrada – 90th 
Orlando Estrada is running as a challenger to Rep. Daniela Garcia (R-Holland) in the 90th District. Estrada has been vocal in his criticism of Garcia for loyalty to the Republican Caucus, particularly on her vote to increase the gas tax last year. Estrada is an “educational entertainer” and runs a trivia game show nationwide for college students on the U.S. Constitution. 

5. Dan Lauffer – 38th 
In the 38th District, Republican Dan Lauffer is running for a second time against incumbent Rep. Kathy Crawford (R-Novi) in the GOP primary. Lauffer made headlines in 2014 when comments online that homosexuality was a form of “demonic possession” surfaced. The debate over LGBT rights is hot again this election cycle as lawmakers at the state and federal level debate legislation regarding transgender individuals’ use of gendered bathroom facilitates. While Lauffer’s 2014 campaign manager, Jake Davison, was careful to distinguish between Lauffer and anti-gay Tea Party Republican activist Dave Agema, Agema has offered his help to Lauffer’s campaign on Facebook. 

6. Brandon Hall – 88th 
Conservative blogger Brandon Hall, running in the 88th, meets all the Tea Party benchmarks with his anti-establishment, anti-taxation writings. He’s a self-professed constitutionalist, but his candidacy may be tripped up by felony charges related to a 2012 judicial race in which Hall admitted to forging signatures. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison. 

7Lee Chatfield – 107th 
The lone incumbent on this election cycle’s Tea Party roster, Rep. Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) has made a name for himself in Lansing as a staunch conservative and champion of gun rights. Chatfield faces a primary challenge in the 107th District race from Ste. Sault Marie City Commissioner Kathy Twardy, whose central issue is addressing energy generation in the U.P. 

8. John Briscoe – 102nd 
John Briscoe’s campaign slogan “Faith. Family. Freedom.” resonates with the timbre of the Tea Party. While not formally endorsed or involved with an official tea party group, Briscoe frequently invokes the nation’s Founding Fathers and Revolutionary War history in discussion of modern-day issues. He is also benefiting from the work of Tea Party activists in West Michigan. Also in this district, Ormand Hook, who has ties to the free market think tank at the Mackinac Center, would qualify as Tea Party. 

9. Jason Gillman – 104th 
Another Tea Party challenger, Jason Gillman of blogging fame, is challenging incumbent Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) in the 104th District. Gillman’s platform is centered on opposition to the Detroit Public Schools Reform package. On his campaign website, Gillman invokes founding father John Adams on social issues and prominently features strict constitutionalism. 

10. David Chandler – 106th 
In the quest for term-limited Rep. Pete Pettalia’s (R-Presque Isle) seat in the 106th District, Republican candidate David Chandler has laid relatively low. In a crowded primary field, sources peg Chandler as the candidate for a Tea Party voter. In March, a local tea party group organized a meet and greet with Chandler in Oscoda. Chandler faces Sue Allor, Jackie Krawczak and Jesse Osmer in the Aug. 2 primary. Allor, too, has been flagged as a Tea Party option in this northern Michigan seat. 

11. Alan Arcand – 108th 
Republican hopeful in the 108th District, Alan Arcand is well known among Tea Party Republicans for running a spirited campaign against U.S. Rep Dan Benishek (R-Crystal Falls) for the 1st Congressional District seat in 2014. He did lose, however, by a 40-point margin. His campaign manager, Ben Lazarus, is a vocal anti-Gov. Rick Snyder tea party activist. 

12. Shane Hernandez – 83rd 
Shane Hernandez stepped aside from his involvement with Tea Party activist group Battle Cry Michigan to run in this Sanilac County seat. The grassroots group’s main object is to replace moderate and establishment conservatives and facilitate networking and coordination across local groups. In the primary Hernandez faces Justin Faber and Matt Muxlow, the son of Rep. Paul Muxlow (R-Brown City) and former Rep. Pat Somerville (R-Trenton) staffer. 

13. Justin Tranchita -32nd 
Most known for using his musical talents to support for Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, Justin Tranchita represents the Tea Party in the four-way primary primary for Rep. Andrea LaFontaine’s (R-Memphis) open seat. Like many Tea Party Republicans, Tranchita advances an anti-government, anti-taxes, pro-life and pro-gun agenda. Fun fact: Tranchita also wrote Carson’s campaign song “This is America.” 

14. Colleen Carl – 33rd 
One source has described Carl, running in the Macomb-based 33rd District, as very similar to her mother Maria Carl. That’s significant in that the elder Carl is known for running against Leon Drolet in 2004 and citing his vote against the traditional marriage constitutional amendment. 

The younger Carl said on her website that she’s committed to lowering taxes and voting against further tax increases and that she will be a “champion” for the pro-life cause. 

15. Steve Johnson – 72nd 
Johnson, running in a five-way Republican primary in the West Michigan 72nd District, described himself as “pro-life, pro-family and supports Schools of Choice and is against Common Core,” while also asserting that the size of government has grown yet “our freedoms have diminished.” The tagline on his website is “Less Government, More Freedom.” He’s running with an evangelical tone to his campaign that may lead some to support another strong conservative in the race, Tony Noto. 

16. John Reilly – 46th 
Reilly is trying again for the 46th District seat he attempted to nab from incumbent Rep. Bradford Jacobsen (R-Oxford) in 2014. He has the support of Matt Maddock, a leader in the Oakland County Tea Party movement. Reilly’s 2014 campaign website said he “strongly believes life begins at the moment of conception,” and he has said he opposes Common Core and has also promised to fight Obamacare at all levels, including the expansion of Medicaid.

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