Thursday, December 31, 2015

WMP's Politico Of The Year: Paul Mitchell

By Brandon Hall
(Email him at
A lot of people made an impact on Michigan politics in 2015, but one person showed leadership that will help Michiganders for decades: Paul Mitchell. That's why Mitchell is WMP's Politico Of The Year.

Growing up in the infamous, hard-nosed Southie projects of Boston with six siblings and parents who worked multiple jobs to keep food on the table, Mitchell is no stranger to working hard and getting things done.

Mitchell worked his way to Michigan State University, eventually graduating, working for Chrysler, then becoming a top leader at Ross Education. He would eventually become CEO at Ross.

Most political junkies first heard of Mitchell in fall of 2013 when he launched ads against Gary Peters through his "Pure PAC." Soon after, he announced he was running for Congress when Dave Camp said he was retiring.

That 2014 campaign didn't pan out.

But in early 2015, when Lansing power brokers tried to screw over the people and pass the largest tax increase in over 50 years, Mitchell stepped up to the plate immediately, putting his money, time, and talent into opposing what was known as "Prop 1."

As others have alluded to, if the horrendous Prop 1 campaign were a horror movie, spoiler alert: Paul Mitchell is the "killer."

Mitchell, a retired businessman, led the campaign to defeat Prop 1 and was extremely successful.  His group, "Say No To Higher Taxes And Special Interest Deals," was the primary source of resistance to millions spent by Lansing power brokers and establishment hacks trying to get rich off the taxpayer's dime.

Mitchell defined the narrative from the beginning, using the press and social media immensely effectively to promulgate his anti-Prop 1 messaging strategy.

Mitchell also showed his strategic acumen when he hired veteran political hands Scott Hagerstrom of AFP, former Ottawa GOP Executive Director Faith Steketee, and Randall Thompson, now Chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. All are pros and were critical to the success of Mitchell's team.

Mitchell and his team engaged grassroots leaders across the state, made a myriad of media appearances, spoke at dozens of events, held a rally at the Capitol, operated phone banks, led email campaigns, helped with letters to the editor, and even held debates against Prop 1 proponents, among other things. 

At the Michigan Republican Convention in February, Mitchell even challenged Meekhof to a debate after Meekhof rudely interrupted him and accused him of lying about the controversial proposal. Meekhof refused....

Mitchell's leadership was crucial in beating the Lansing machine by a record 60 point margin, 80%-20%, the biggest defeat for a proposal in Michigan history.

Now Mitchell wants to take those conservative values to Washington D.C., announcing in a press release this summer he is running for Congress to replace a retiring Candice Miller in Michigan's 10th Congressional District.

In an interview with WMP before Prop 1, Mitchell said he learned a lot from his previous Congressional campaign, and Prop 1 proved Mitchell correct.

""Losing kind of sucks," Mitchell told WMP when asked what he learned because of his heated Congressional race against now Congressman John Moolenaar.

 "I learned how difficult it is to overcome the power of the political establishment. We didn't 'feel their wrath,' but we definitely did not get the support... The campaign taught me some things about how to communicate issues better."

Stay tuned...

Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.

>>>Email him at


Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson

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