Through the eyes of a candidate, on election day
When state Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, woke up Tuesday on the day of his re-election, he wasn’t nervous.He was hungry, not only for breakfast, but for a second term in office. He met at Stan’s Restaurant, 220 E. Broadway St., with his campaign strategist, Matthew Golden, and his campaign manager, Grand Rapids senior Ben Greene.
“If you’re nervous on Election Day, that means you didn’t do your homework,” Cotter said. “It’s like trying to finish a book report the day it’s due.”
Cotter, 35, was projected by many people to defeat Adam Lawrence, the Democratic challenger for the 99th District.
The first priority of the day was breakfast – two eggs, over-easy, with buttered toast and a coffee with no milk and sugar. With a few other patrons eating and talking in the restaurant, Cotter and his staffers spoke about the growing lines at local precincts and news about long lines for voting in Detroit and Miami.
He shook hands with other patrons in the restaurant. They wished Cotter luck in the election.“I’m sure you’ll win,” a man said.
The Cotter campaign took what could be described as a laid-back approach to his re-election campaign. Greene said they “knocked on a lot of doors” but they kept themselves from an “in-your-face” approach. Cotter said his previous term brought him recognition in the 99th District, which has traditionally been heavily Republican.
Greene began at CMU as a broadcasting major. His interest in politics shifted his major to political science, and he soon became involved in local campaigns. He developed the campaign plan with Cotter, a CMU alum.
“It’s tough to get away from the ‘bug,’” Greene said. “That’s what I call it.”
Regardless of projections, predictions and popularity, Cotter knew thorough campaign work had to be done.“I think the hardest part of our job is prioritizing,” Cotter said, about executing the campaign plan.
Golden usually works in Lansing but he took vacation time to stay in Mount Pleasant with Cotter.
“I’m just here because I’m a nerd,” Golden said. “I love this stuff.”
After breakfast, Golden drove behind Cotter to the Union Township office to vote. He waited in line for 12 minutes to complete and cast his ballot.
Cotter met at his campaign headquarters in an office space, 113 W. Broadway St., where his campaign signs were secured to the large window-front. In a back room, he spoke with Golden and Greene about Election Day events and made plans for preparing his victory party at Hunter’s Ale House, 4855 E. Blue Grass Road.
Throughout his first term, Cotter said he voted 53 times against his own party on various issues. He posted the results of each vote on Facebook, along with explanations for why he voted the way he did. Transparency and accountability for his official conduct was as much of a priority, he said, as meeting with constituents. During the campaign, he made it a point to avoid negative campaigning against Lawrence.From the headquarters, Cotter left to sit in on meetings regarding his official work as representative. Then he prepared for the evening, and had dinner with his family.Cotter drove to Midland for the Midland County GOP Victory Party at the H Hotel, 111 W. Main St., a three-star hotel with a large conference room where Dave Camp held his victory party.
Cotter met with supporters, took an interview with a local TV news station and spoke briefly about his hope for Republican victories in the local and national elections.After spending about a half-hour there, he headed back to Mount Pleasant for his party at Hunter’s Ale House. There, he greeted his family and friends, spoke to the gathering and then met with supporters as Golden continually updated the results numbers of his election, along with the presidential race and other local elections on a 200-inch screen.
Cotter's supporters, expecting a victory, were more relaxed than in 2010, when he was elected to the House for the first time.
He was ahead of Lawrence by about 2,700 votes with just a few precincts left to report. Golden calculated the votes and made sure that the remaining number of votes were negligible in determining the winner. When Golden saw that the math guaranteed a majority of votes, he gave Cotter the thumbs-up.
Cotter’s wife, Jennifer, and his father, Bob, congratulated him after he declared victory at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday.
He left Hunter's Ale House at about 2 a.m. and stayed up until 3:30 a.m. with his laptop, keeping tabs on state and national elections.
Cotter’s hunger for re-election was satisfied. Cotter said his dad’s congratulations meant a lot to him.
“He congratulated me and told me to keep up the good work, and he was especially proud of the way we ran this race,” Cotter said. “He’s always been against negative campaigning, and said he was proud of the way things were run. That makes me feel really good.”