Michigan GOP Convention: Committeeman Race In Spotlight
By Carol Cain
It’s an old-fashioned political dogfight via tweets and emails that suggest mudslinging, back door deals, whimsically changing Michigan Republican party rules to help GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney and more .
It has to do with which of two candidates – Saul Anuzis or state Rep. Dave Agema — will be chosen to be Michigan’s RNC’s committeeman to go on to the national convention in Tampa, Fla. when GOP presidential presumptive nominee Romney is supposed to be coronated.
The Anuzis-Agema battle will come to an end this weekend in Detroit when delegates to the Michigan Republican Party convention at Cobo Center will select one man and one woman.
State Rep. Holly Hughes, who currently has the Michigan Committee Chairwoman post, is being challenged for re-election by former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land in a far more genteel battle.
This weekend’s GOP conference will also feature RNC Chairman Reince Priebus who will address the gathering as will Gov. Rick Snyder, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, Attorney General Bill Schuette and Michigan Republican Party Chairman Bobby Schostak.
From there, Michigan will take its contingent of 59 GOP delegates to the national convention, but since the state bucked party rules by holding its Feb. 28 presidential primary earlier than national party rules allowed, only 30 of the delegates will be able to vote.
Committeeman race simmers
Anuzis, the media kinetic former state GOP Chair, has held the committeeman job since Keith Butler stepped aside midway through his term in 2010.
Anuzis is now running for the four-year term against Agema, also a solid conservative and a retired pilot who holds an MBA.
Agema has the support of Chuck and John Yob (the father and son GOP strategists from the west side of the state).
And therein lies the issue: To say there is some animous between Anuzis and the Yobs would be an understatement.
That situation was inflamed when Anuzis spearheaded Keith Butler’s defeat of Chuck Yob when the elder Yob sought re-election as RNC committeeman in 2007.
In an “Off the Record” taping a few years ago, Anuzis called the Yobs “a cancer in the party.”
Agema said the Yobs have been helping him.
“I am working with them” said Agema. “They are not financing me. They are working pro bono.”
Agema said he is putting in some of his own money into financing his campaign.
“I was voted most conservative in the House of Representative and I have not been bought by any lobbyists and I will not be bought by the Yobs,” Agema added.
Agema said his goal as committeeman is to get fiscal conservatives into office, “that have a backbone and can stand up and not be part of the problem. Too often people get elected and then they become part of the problem.”
Though he has supported Anuzis for GOP Chairman, John Yob said he could not support Anuzis now because of the delegate saga that developed following the Michigan primary.
Anuzis, who was tweeting and on facebook long before it was vogue, has been fighting via frequent tweets and email missives about inaccuracies he says are being promulgated about him in this campaign.
“I am not a lobbyist, never have been. I am not a political consultant, I do not work for any campaigns, campaign committees or PACs,” said Anuzis.
Anuzis said his only goal is, “to do all I can to help nominate conservative Republicans, at every level and to help those Republicans to public office.”
Others have been taking note of the sudden flurry of emails.
“I’m getting pretty tired of email and phone call attacks directed at Saul Anuzis, and MRP,: said Prudy Adam, Genessee County GOP chair.
“It is a well known fact that Chuck and John Yob are behind the attacks. They are no friends to the Republican Party having slandered Saul and the MRP as “corrupt” on facebook (I unfriended them),” she added.
John Yob denies it, adding it is Anuzis who is trying to turn the tables on what is taking place in this race.
“Saul and his supporters are trying to turn his re-election into a race between Anuzis vs. the Yobs because he is vulnerable on issues such as the delegate scandal and the national popular vote,” said Yob.
Anuzis took issue with that.
“This is not a Yob vs Anuzis battle,” Anuzis said. “Yob and his allies recruited Agema and they must have an agenda. I do my best to ignore the Yobs, they just love playing games.”
Longtime card carrying GOP member Susan Brown said: “This is just another Yob vs. Anuzis dogfight.”
Brown tried to run for University of Michigan regent in 2008. But her bid was squelched at the state convention where candidates for education board seats are decided.
“It was terrifying to someone who had worked pretty hard running for (UM regent) office and had no idea what was going on,” she said of the convention where Anuzis and the Yobs were battling over candidates.
“There were backroom deals being cut. It was disappointing to me then and it is now as I see all the emails and other things still going on,” Brown said.
She isn’t sure who she will support as RNC committeeman this weekend.
“I think Saul may know more about it but he is part of the establishment. Agema has been in office but if he has been put up by a faction of people – I just don’t know.”
There are two issues at play in the committeeman conversation: the awarding of Michigan delegates and the nationalpopular vote compact.
Romney, who had Anuzis’ support, won the Feb. 28 Michigan primary and earned 16 of the state’s voting delegates. Since Santorum, who had the Yobs’ support, exited the presidential race, has 14 delegates
It was how the two at-large delegates ended with Romney that is cause for some contention.
Anuzis, a member of the credentials committee,said the party’s rules were passed on Feb. 4 , well before the primary , to award the two at-large delegates to the statewide winner, but that a memo sent — in error – to the candidates’ campaigns said the delegates would be distributed proportionately.
“While we regret the error in the memo, it does not change what was voted on by the committee,” Anuzis told the Detroit Free Press.
Mike Cox, former Michigan attorney general who is supporting Anuzis, said it left a bad taste.
“For a lot of grass roots, it was upsetting,” Cox said. “It’s the kind of thing that makes a difference.”
The other issue is the national popular vote interstate compact.
Anuzis was a consultant for the national organization supporting the compact.
Although Agema has recently changed his position on the bill, in each of his three terms in office he either voted for or sponsor the NPV bill.
The “tussle over the National Popular Vote issue is an invented issue,” Anuzis said.
(Carol Cain is the Emmy winning Senior Producer and Host of CBS62 “Michigan Matters.” She writes about business and politics in Sunday’s Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)