Madison County Republican Party leadership recently took the somewhat unusual step of “slating” — or endorsing — GOP candidates in several races in the May 6 primary election.
The slated races include county council, commissioner, treasurer, clerk and recorder.
Politically, the move is a calculated risk by GOP county chairman Russ Willis and his supporters. In the end, it could further alienate Republican candidates who weren’t endorsed. That would be particularly damaging in the case of any such candidates who actually win their party’s nomination in the primary.
But local Republican leadership may have learned a lesson from what has happened in recent elections on the state and national scale. Some ultra-conservative candidates have won in GOP primaries, but proved too radical to win in the general election.
The most striking example of this, of course, was the race in Indiana for a U.S. Senate seat in 2012. Long-time, widely respected senator Richard Lugar was ousted by right-winger Richard Mourdock in the primary. But Mourdock’s views and philosophies were too far to the right to suit Indiana’s moderate voters, and Mourdock was defeated by Democrat Joe Donnelly in the general election.
Madison County GOP leadership could hope to forestall the primary victories of tea party-backed candidates, reasoning that a more moderate Republican ticket would stand a better chance of prevailing in the race for county seats in November’s general election.
But this dissension in the local Republican Party runs much deeper. It’s a battle royale for political control. The avant-garde Republicans are led by former county councilman Mike Gaskill. They are diametrically opposed to the local old-guard GOP and are much more radical in their goals of financial austerity.
Not suprisingly, local Republican leadership has endorsed challenger Micah Mitchell in the primary race against incumbent Kelly Gaskill, Mike Gaskill’s wife.