‘Main Street’ GOP group unveils platform with hopes of boosting moderates

FILE – Voters stand in line waiting for ballot for the North Carolina primary at a library in Raleigh, N.C., on May 6, 2008. Tens of thousands of people serving punishments for felony convictions in North Carolina but who aren’t behind bars can now register to vote and cast ballots following an appeals court ruling. Expanding the scope of those able to register and vote began on Wednesday, July 27, 2022, the State Board of Elections said. (AP Photo/Jim R. Bounds, File)

The Republican Main Street Partnership, a group that supports centrist-leaning and conservative GOP candidates, is releasing on Tuesday a five-point policy platform ahead of the midterms that it hopes can boost candidates in swing districts and grow its influence in the House Republican Conference.

More than 60 sitting members are part of the partnership and its associated Main Street caucus, with its aim to increase that number to more than 100. The group hopes that the agenda can help its GOP candidates as the midterm election season kicks into high gear. 

The group’s five priorities are energy independence, the labor shortage, fixing supply chain issues, public safety and staying dominant on the international stage.

“We want to put legislation in between the guardrails,” Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), a co-chair of the caucus, said in a briefing last week. “We know there’s a left ditch and we know there’s a right ditch. In between the guardrails, that’s where Main Street America is.”

Success of the group could play a large part in setting the tone of a potential House GOP takeover next year, which most analysts say looks likely. Increasing the number of centrist members could keep hard-line and confrontational members in the House Freedom Caucus and elsewhere from exerting more influence over the direction of Republican leadership.

“I’m a conservative, but I watched, I watched last time — I watched people pursuing ‘no.’ We can’t pursue ‘no.’ We’ve got to govern,” said Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), another co-chair of the caucus. “We’ve got to get that 218 on board, and we can do that by reaching out to more members and putting them in Main Street.”

The energy section calls for opening up new areas and permits for energy production in the U.S. and resuming construction of the Keystone Pipeline, as well as encouraging industry investments in renewable resources and cleaner technologies.

To address labor shortage issues, Main Street calls for removing “artificially created barriers to entry” to increase the number of workers. It suggests reforming Social Security so retired people who want to go back to work don’t see a reduction in benefits, making all tips and work more than 40 hours a week tax free, making all bonuses that do not exceed 12 percent of salary or income tax free, encouraging trade programs and creating tax breaks for companies that create apprenticeship programs.

Polling commissioned by the Main Street Partnership among registered voters in four competitive congressional districts in California, Nebraska, Oregon and Pennsylvania in July found that its most popular message revolved around trade schools, with 86 percent of respondents agreeing with the idea of bringing back shop class.

“How do you create skilled workers? You create apprenticeship programs, you create craftsmen starting in high school dual enrollment where they’re doing the role of working on a skill or craft where they can go out and be successful in society,” said Rep. Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa).

Bost brought up his experience running his family’s trucking business for 10 years when talking about supply chain issues, arguing that trucking regulations are over-burdensome and can be adjusted without compromising safety. Electronic logbooks tracking road time put drivers and the supply chain in bad situations, he said.

Stauber, a former police officer in Duluth, Minnesota, punctuated the group’s point on public safety by recalling a time when a suspect pulled a handgun on him and pulled the trigger — but the gun misfired. The federal attorney in Minneapolis did not prosecute the suspect, and the repeat “career criminal,” Stauber said, was finally arrested and sent to prison a dozen years later.

Main Street’s agenda calls for implementing guidelines for prosecutors, giving police departments more resources, keeping qualified immunity in place to shield officers from personal liability when performing their jobs and not keeping “unverified or non-validated complaints” in law enforcement officials’ permanent records.

“Probably nobody dislikes a bad cop like a good cop. Trust me,” Stauber said. 

In a distinction in midterm messaging from House GOP leaders and hard-line conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, Main Street’s agenda does not put a heavy emphasis on the migration surge at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

Stauber did mention the border in his briefing, though, in the context of drugs coming across the border in in regards to the group’s safety and security agenda item.

The Main Street Partnership polling in competitive districts also found that 72 percent of registered voters said that the country was headed in the wrong direction, 63 percent disapproved of President Biden’s job performance and 85 percent said the U.S.’s status and reputation was getting weaker.

The group’s poll memo also said that every agenda statement it tested had majority agreement, with 80 percent agreeing with protecting NATO and alliances, 78 percent with stopping violent crime, 65 percent with funding police and 55 percent with drilling more oil in America.

This story was updated at 2:32 p.m.

Tags Mike Bost Pete Stauber

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