Two days after the Michigan Republican State Convention adjourned, many among the 2,100-plus delegates at Detroit’s Cobo Hall cannot stop talking about what happened there.
In what is inarguably the biggest upheaval within the state party in years, delegates ousted the Water Wonderland’s two members of the Republican National Committee, Saul Anuzis (committeeman) and Holly Hughes (committeewoman). The results were particularly dramatic regarding Anuzis, a past candidate for RNC chairman and a player in national Republican politics since he helped run the late Jack Kemp’s presidential campaign in Michigan in 1988. Anuzis lost by a margin of 3-to-2 to challenger Dave Agema.
“No one saw this coming,” Tom Klunzinger, former Ingham County (Lansing) GOP Chairman told Human Events, referring to the upset for the party posts.
While some pundits in Washington and Lansing were quick to interpret the party putsch as a triumph for the tea party, the answer is not so simple. While newly-elected Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land and Committeeman Agema were backed by tea party-aligned delegates, both had “establishment” credentials as well. Land is a former two-term secretary of state and has been active in GOP politics since she was a teenager. Agema is a state representative.
“You could say that the tea party, the Ron Paul supporters, and other groups were very important to my election—especially at a convention in which nearly half the delegates were attending their first such event,” Land told Human Events, adding that her support of causes such as Freedom to Work (right to work) and the term limits effort helped her with these delegates.
But, Land emphasized, “I also campaigned on issues I would have to deal with on the RNC, such as repealing that stupid—yes, stupid—rule that disenfranchised [Michigan’s] delegate strength to the national convention for holding the presidential primary as early as we did. Now if you want to say no one can go ahead of New Hampshire, fine. But after that, it should be up to the states. When you disenfranchise and penalize for doing so, what kind of a welcome mat to potential supporters is that?”
Land rolled up about 55 percent of the vote over Hughes, who also serves as a state representative.
The defeat of Anuzis was more intriguing. Ron Paul supporters had never forgiven him for denouncing their hero following a presidential debate in ’07 in which the Texan said the U.S. itself was responsible for 9/11 in 2001 by overthrowing Mohammad Mossadegh’s government in Iran in 1953. At the time, Anuzis said he would introduce a resolution to bar Paul from future debates and, although he didn’t go through with it, “Team Paul” has not forgotten. In addition, Anuzis had even upset old friends by working as a consultant for the National Popular Vote, a national movement founded by New York billionaire (and ’04 John Kerry supporter) Tom Golisano to change the Electoral College to more reflect the popular vote. Widely condemned by conservatives, the movement was denounced by an RNC vote, and Anuzis eventually left the group.
Most recently, former State Chairman Anuzis sided with Mitt Romney’s supporters over those of Rick Santorum in the apportioning of at-large national convention delegates from Michigan. In so doing, he angered backers of Santorum, who had fought Romney to a photo finish in the primary earlier this year. Human Events reached out to Anuzis following the convention vote, but he was unavailable for a comment.
To say that the tea party or the outsiders beat the establishment at the convention in Detroit this weekend is inaccurate. It was much more complicated than that. But to say that the shake-up among Michigan Republican was dramatic or even earth-shaking is on the mark, as we are finding out from those who participated.