Damning report, text messages lead to political embarrassment for GOP lawmakers
State Representative Roy Schmidt was back in the headlines this week; tagged in a prosecutor’s report as a liar and a cheat – but not a lawbreaker – for his last-minute party switch from Democrat to Republican and scheme to pay a patsy to be the fake Democrat on the ballot against him. It was just two short months ago that Schmidt was welcomed to the House Republican caucus with cheers and applause when he announced his party-switch. State House Speaker Jase Bolger was credited with engineering the political coup of the year. In fact, it was the first party switch by a sitting Michigan lawmaker in two decades. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t such a well-planned operation.
A Damning Report
This week, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth issued an eight-page report outlining the plot between Bolger and Schmidt. The report shows not only a plot for Schmidt to switch parties so late in the game that Democrats would not have time to put one of their own on the ballot, but also to pay one Matt Mojzak, a 22-year-old Schmidt-family friend, to be his fake Democratic opponent. Mojzak’s fee was to be $450. It was then upped to a thousand dollars as he started to get cold feet. Checks were cut from Schmidt’s campaign fund, but never handed over as Mojzak said he wanted nothing more to do with Schmidt or the scheme.
The Republican prosecutor said Schmidt and Bolger tried to undermine the integrity of the election and that it was shameful but, not illegal. Apparently, paying someone to be on a ballot – to basically fix a political race – is not a crime in Michigan.
Embarrassing Texts (What Else is New?)
The scathing report was made possible because Forsyth was able to trace back the scheme to text messages that were sent between Bolger and Schmidt. Yes, folks, another text-message scandal. Political-observers from around the state have been making light of the texts between Bolger and Schmidt. Though they're certainly not as steamy as the infamous Kwame Kilpatrick-texts, they do seem to show a budding "bromance" between Schmidt and Bolger. You can hear a couple of the texts (yes, for your enjoyment, we did a reenactment) at the audio link above.
Political Futures Upended?
Last summer Speaker Bolger was seen as a rising star among the GOP. He was even talked about as a possible Republican challenger to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow. This week however, with the release of the report, the state’s two largest newspapers excoriated Schmidt and Bolger and suggested maybe it was time that Bolger was replaced as Speaker. One might expect that kind of opinion coming from the editorial pages of The Detroit Free Press, which leans left. But, from The Detroit News it was surprising, considering that paper’s editorial pages are more conservative.
If Schmidt had remained a Democrat, he almost certainly would have won reelection. If he had made the switch in a less-scandalous fashion, he still could have won and been positioned to run for the state Senate in a couple of years. That’s because Schmidt’s state House seat is competitive, but marginally Democratic. He most likely would not have had trouble winning a third term. But it would have been his final House term because of term limits. So maybe he had his sights set on the state Senate. We may never know.
Democrats Smell Blood
Many Democrats, meanwhile, seem to be having a field day with the latest Republican misfortunes. They think they’ve seized on yet another campaign issue delivered to their doorstep courtesy of the state House Republicans (after all, who can forget “Vagina-gate”). Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer says his party will make Bolger’s leadership and behavior a campaign issue. “We intend to hold all the members of the Republican caucus accountable for this. They’re going to have to choose between supporting their corrupt, lying speaker and their own reelection in the fall. We’re going to make this an issue. It should be an issue in all their campaigns. They’re going to have to choose whether they stick with Speaker Bolger or whether they’re more concerned about their own reelection,” Brewer said at a news conference yesterday.
Democrats have also been out knocking on doors and making phone calls in Bolger’s typically safe Republican district (Bolger’s seat, and all the other 109 House seats are up for election this November). This could, of course, just be politics – meant more to needle and annoy Bolger. But, it’s hard to tell. This is uncharted territory and it’s not quite known just how much Bolger has damaged himself – and his fellow Republicans.