KENT COUNTY, Mich. — Robert “RJ” Regan prides himself in being a grassroots conservative and thinks his ground game helped lead him to a close victory in Tuesday’s 74th district GOP special primary, but according to experts his victory could also be a sign of former President Donald Trump’s increasing and lasting influence on the Republican Party and its base.
Regan’s victory in Tuesday’s primary came as a bit of surprise in some circles, as he edged out three other candidates including Walker Mayor Pro-tem Steven Gilbert, who received endorsements from the Michigan Chamber and Michigan Freedom Network among other organizations and lawmakers.
The seat was left vacant when former state representative and now Sen. Mark Huizenga (R-Walker) was elected to the Senate.
“Was it a surprise? I guess it really depends who you ask. I mean, clearly, if you were to ask the establishment people in Lansing and the lobbyists and quite frankly, the establishment here in Kent GOP yeah, they were all very surprised, very surprised,” Regan said.
Regan’s victory could be evidence of the times. John Sellek, a longtime republican consultant and strategist in Michigan says, “the victory of several pro-Trump candidates shows the continued ascendancy of the MAGA wing of the party.”
Sellek adds Regan’s experience as a past candidate could have helped as well, “Notable is that Regan was one of the three winners in open House seats last night whoo have run for office multiple times, likely meaning those experiences resulted in stronger candidacies this time. While a win is a win, it's important to note this race was incredibly close, with a 3rd candidate playing spoiler. The make up of multi-candidate primaries will continue to have a large impact between the establishment and Trump battles.”
“We need to make Michigan great again,” Regan said in an interview with FOX 17 Wednesday.
Throughout his campaign, he has echoed the same unsubstantiated claims about 2020 election as the former president, despite hundreds of audits conducted by the state and a GOP state Senate investigation that didn’t find any evidence of widespread fraud.
Robert Regan, the winner of GOP special primary to fill a vacant Michigan House seat, says he wants to decertify the 2020 election results and would support a ballot drive to do it.— Aaron Parseghian (@AaronParseghian) March 2, 2022
I asked him if he trusts the results from the election he won last night: pic.twitter.com/wABs5Eyyeh
“I don't think that election was fair. I don't think it was done with integrity. And it should be decertified,” Regan said, while adding he would support a potential petition drive to get it done.
On social media, Regan called the COVID-19 pandemic “fake,” while questioning if Russia was actually attacking Ukraine; comparing the two and criticizing news coverage of the both.
“We shut down our economy for two years, small businesses went out of businesses, restaurants that are never going to be opened again and our children got harmed with masks and vaccination. So I don't trust the media at all right now.”
In a conservative heavy district, Regan is in a strong position heading towards May’s special election where he will face Democratic nominee and current Walker City Commissioner Carol Glanville.
Regan thinks his message is resonating with voters.
“We have the best people in the state. We need to make it friendly for business. We need to get our we need to start focusing on our schools. Let's can we please stop with the indoctrination and all of the different social woke ideas? Can we get back to reading, writing arithmetic, get to the basics, so our students can succeed,” Regan added.
The winner of May’s election will serve just eight months in the state House--then new maps get adopted, though both Regan and Glanville are planning on running in what will be the new 84th district.