Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Michigan Republican Party endorses trustee candidates Menge and Balow

April 24, 2022

Republicans from all over Michigan gathered at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids to vote to endorse candidates for the ballot on April 23, 2022. 

MSU Board of Trustees candidates Travis Menge and Mike Balow were endorsed at the Michigan Republican Party endorsement convention on April 23, leaving trustee Melanie Foster without endorsement from the party.

Two rounds of voting were held at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids.

The candidates on the first ballot were Menge, Balow and FosterMcLaren board member Rick Wendorf withdrew his candidacy due to health issues.

Menge achieved the 40% threshold in the first round, securing his place on the statewide ballot.

After a runoff election between Balow and Foster, Balow won the vote and will be the second candidate representing the Republican Party.

Going into the first round of voting, Menge said he was “cautiously optimistic.”

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“I’m not a politician—this is the first convention that I’ve been to and been a candidate at,” Menge said. “I think that this has just been a wonderful experience to meet all the delegates and to meet all the supporters from across the state.”

Menge and Foster campaigned together at the convention. Menge said he teamed up with her because he wants to fill both open seats on the board with Republicans.

“I think Melanie’s leadership experience in her time on the board combined with my kind of healthcare background and experience as well as my fresh perspective gives voters a really good opportunity to have established leadership but also have fresh new ideas from somebody who’s got a different background,” Menge said.

He appreciates the opportunity to collaborate with her.

“Working with Melanie has been great,” Menge said. “She’s been very supportive. We’ve been working together, gone to quite a few events and I’m just very grateful for that opportunity.”

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Foster felt confident before the first round of voting. 

“I feel very energized, a lot of enthusiasm for me,” Foster said. “I’m a known entity to many of these delegates and I feel I’m a proven leader, a proven conservative. I am a hard-working trustee at Michigan State University.”

This is Foster’s fifth time running. She won twice and lost twice. 

“One of the reasons strongly that I ran again is, I’m not gonna give names, but many, many prominent people on campus encouraged me to run again,” Foster said.

Foster was impressed by Menge’s background in healthcare and his motivation to run. She said his experience would be helpful in MSU’s opportunities in medicine, including Henry Ford Health Systems and McLaren Health Care.

“He’s doing this for the right reasons,” Foster said. “Not because he’s involved with litigation in the university, he’s doing it because he wants to give back to the alma mater that changed his life.”

The third candidate, Balow, is an advocate for the reinstatement of the MSU swim and dive team. His daughter Sophia is a member of the former women’s varsity swim team, where 11 members filed a Title IX lawsuit against the university for cutting the team.

“I’m not involved in litigation against the university like my opponent is,” Foster said. “I’ve never sued the university. Swim and dive was a very difficult decision. They’re outstanding student-athletes. I feel, in their public participation to the board, they’ve been very articulate, very passionate and I respect that.”

Foster is chair of the budget and finance committee. She said when the decision was made, the university was “hemorrhaging money” and anticipated a $30 million loss in the athletic department.

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She also said the aging facilities and team’s record contributed to the decision.

“The men’s program, in 25 years, has finished at the bottom of the Big Ten in 24 years, I believe, in one place from last once,” Foster said. “The women’s is not much better. So, 25 sports is a lot. I have empathy for them, but we have to move forward.”

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Balow said Foster has never answered an email of his about the team’s cut. 

“I don’t appreciate the code of silence that exists from President (Samuel L.) Stanley’s office and Athletic Director (Alan) Haller’s office on things like the swim and dive team,” he said. “I think as leaders we need to engage together to collaboratively solve problems. And that’s what I’m all about.”

In his promotional video to the party, Balow took a jab at Foster’s decisions during the Nassar investigation

“I think people serve too long and they get too clubby, they get too friendly with each other and they lose right of the mission which is to make the hard decisions that you have to make running a 50,000 student public university,” Balow said. “It should be done by hard due diligence, smart business decisions and doing what’s morally right.”

Before the first vote concluded, Balow said he was feeling “pretty good.” 

“I’ve gotten real positive feedback from a lot of the districts that I spoke to over the campaign trail,” Balow said. “Here today, a lot of people are telling me that they supported me. A lot of people are telling me that they’re supportive of me because I’m not your typical candidate. I’m a guy who has a child at the school and I’m trying to do it for the right reasons.”

After his victory was announced, he said he felt humbled. 

“I’m someone who has come from a background of pure volunteer work and military service,” Balow said. “I think people believe that I would do and I will do the right thing, regardless of how hard it is. I’m not going to be a trustee that goes with the flow.”

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