Caucus, Convention, and Local

There has in the past been some confusion about what Green Party of Michigan (GPMI) locals can and cannot do. With an influx of new members, we are going to have that confusion again. I hope this little essay can avoid some of that.

First, let’s look at the bylaws about locals:

Article III – Locals

Section 1 — Locals Defined :

A) A local may be created by three or more GP-MI members living in a single county or up to three contiguous counties.
B) For a local to become official, its membership must submit to the state leadership, in a format provided, the name of the local, the names and current contact information of its members, its officer structure (if it has one), and its official contact person(s) for the flow of information to and from the state leadership.
C) Once the requisite documentation is submitted, the local is automatically an official affiliate of GP-MI and may conduct appropriate business and activism as such. The affiliation may only be ended by a decision on an announced agenda item at an SMM.
D) Each local of up to ten members may appoint one rep to the SCC. Each local of 11 or more members may appoint two reps to the SCC.

Section 2 — Responsibilities of Locals :

A) A local may volunteer to host state meetings and training in its area.
B) Locals may meet and organize as seems best to them, but are responsible for providing a quarterly update to the appropriate Locals Liaison as to their numbers, structure, and efforts.
C) Locals are responsible for having their reps be active on the SCC. If a rep is not active, the local may be invited to replace that rep.

IMG_0083

Photo by Art Myatt from the 2016 GPMI Nominating Convention

It is really useful to discuss what GPMI locals are **NOT** in order to extend our understanding of what they are.

There are two types of local events defined by state election law that are often confused with “Locals” as defined above. These two events are the Congressional District Caucus and the County Caucus. Both of these events are ephemeral gatheringswith the sole purpose of nominating candidates for partisan office for a particular election. They are typically held for a few hours or possibly for a couple of days before the election and then they are finished until the next partisan election.

A GPMI Congressional District Caucus would consist of all GPMI members residing in the specified attending a face-to-face meeting for the sole purpose of selecting the GPMI candidate for that district. The event would be organized by the state party. The wording (“would be”) is chosen because, since GPMI has been on the ballot in Michigan, no Congressional District Caucus has been held. Candidates for the federal House of Representatives have been nominated at a State Nominating convention or, for a district entirely within Wayne county, at a Wayne County Caucus.

A GPMI County Caucus has been held, typically in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. There may have been similar events in other counties that I am less aware of, as there may be in the future. They all follow the same rules defined by the state. These are similar to a Congressional District Caucus in that they are held for a few hours on a given day (or days) within the time window specified by Michigan election law – before the date of the primary election that will determine Republican And Democratic candidates for an upcoming partisan election.

The legal responsibility for organizing that caucus is with the state party, not with the local (if there is a local in that county). If the GPMI members in a given county wish to hold a county caucus to select local candidates, they need to get authorization from the state party to do so, whether there is a local (or possibly several locals) in that county or not. To repeat, a GPMI county caucus is not the same thing as a GPMI local.

The caucus can select candidates for all partisan offices with districts entirely within the given county. This includes, in the case of Wayne County, a congressional district. For all counties, it includes County Executive, Treasurer, Sheriff, and other county-wide partisan offices as well as County Commission and Township offices, park board offices, etc.. It does not include congressional districts that are partially within the county and spill over into another county or other counties. City Council, school board, library board and other offices, while elected, are nominally non-partisan and are not nominated by any GPMI body.

We have on occasion held all three (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb) county caucus events in the same venue and on the same day. Each caucus consists of the residents of that county and each caucus elects its own Chair and Secretary to handle the required paperwork which must be filed with the appropriate county clerk.

The point is, whether there is a GPMI “(Name of) County Local” in that county or there is not, there can be a County Caucus. A GPMI local is a permanent organization that can do many activities that are political in nature, but it cannot select candidates to be on the ballot, not even candidates for offices whose districts are entirely within the county. Michigan election law controls here.

When there has not been a caucus, GPMI candidates for any partisan office may be selected at the state nominating convention. there are, as usual, complications. If there has been a county caucus prior to the convention, and that caucus has considered candidates for, let us say, Sheriff, without making a nomination, the convention should not subsequently nominate someone for Sheriff in that county. It is even possible to hold a county caucus in the same venue and at the same time as the state nominating convention. What is not complicated is that locals do not nominate candidates for the ballot in Michigan.

Because caucuses (or caucii, if we are following Latin rules for the plural) and locals are going to involve the same GPMI political activists in the same area, it’s easy to understand why caucuses and locals can get confused. As long as we remember that a caucus is a short event defined by Michigan election law and locals are permanent organizations defined by GPMI bylaws, we should be able to keep the confusion to a minimum.

What a local can do is endorse candidates in local non-partisan elections. Having endorsed a candidate, members of the local might also campaign for that nominally non-partisan candidate. That’s a whole other discussion when it comes to candidates who are active Democrats, Independents, Socialists or Libertarians seeking endorsement. This does happen. We have even had candidates in a Democratic Party primary election seek our endorsement. My personal opinion is that whether this is a good idea depends on the character and history of the person seeking endorsement. That’s what makes it a lengthy discussion whenever the question comes up.

One simple rule that applies is that, while a local might consider endorsement, a caucus exists for the single purpose of nominating GPMI candidates and does not do endorsements at all.

Art Myatt

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