Every state gets one Republican National Committeeman, and Michigan has had some notable ones who long performed with distinction but were not always in step with party leadership.
Longest-serving in the post was Chuck Yob, originally of Grand Rapids and now of Hesperia, who was elected in 1989 and served 19 years. He was an early supporter of Gov. Rick Snyder, who recently designated him as the next chairman of the Mackinac Island Park Commission — an interesting move since ex-Gov. John Engler once dumped Yob on the commission after he defied Engler on a state convention nomination.
Yob succeeded National Committeeman Pete Secchia of East Grand Rapids (appointed U.S. ambassador to Italy), who was not always chummy with GOP Gov. William G. Milliken. Earlier, National Committeeman Peter B. Fletcher of Ypsilanti was a Milliken ally.
Now comes brand new Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema of Grandville, a former three-term state representative who decidedly is out of step with the Michigan and national GOP as they wisely try to broaden party appeal.
Agema has scoffed at demands that he resign over an anti-gay posting on his Facebook page of an online article (not authored by him) that condemns gays’ “filthy lifestyle” and portrays them as promiscuous and prone to transmitting sexual diseases.
Those demands have been effectively — at least so far as media splash — spurred by Dennis Lennox, 28, a Grand Traverse County Republican precinct delegate and former Cheboygan County Drain Commissioner who tends to rock political boats where ever he is, including his days as a student at Central Michigan University.
Among the dozens of emails I have received from Lennox, a columnist for the Mount Pleasant Morning Sun, on the subject is a statement signed by 20 other Republicans condemning Agema’s “deplorable actions” and calling for his resignation.
It said: “We do not have confidence in Mr. Agema representing the best interests of our fellow Michigan Republicans and as a result ask him to resign from his seat on the Republican National Committee.”
Subsequently, some county GOP leaders joined in against Agema and on Friday GOP House Speaker Jase Bolger’s office said he disassociated himself from Agema’ s posting. As well he should. ,
On its Friday report on the issue, The Detroit News said, “State and national Republican officials released statements calling for tolerance and condemning hatred while not calling for Agema’s ouster.”
On Saturday, the paper’s editorial page editor, Nolan Finley, wrote: “There may be defensible reasons to oppose gay marriage, but hatred and ignorance aren’t among them.” He said Agema “revealed himself as hateful and ignorant in reposting on his Facebook page an article attributing to homosexuals all manner of deviant characteristics, calling them unclean and blaming them for half the nation’s murders. It’s vile garbage, and it may have passed for mainstream thought on homosexuality at one time in this country, but that time is long past.
“The Republican Party’s time will pass as well if it allows neanderthals such as Agema to continue speaking under its name.”
Well said by a man who was my editor long ago.
They also have created recent political stir. Democratic National Committeewoman Debbie Dingell, a Wayne State University trustee and wife of U.S. Rep. John Dingell of Dearborn, and Republican National Committeewoman Terri Lynn Land of Grand Rapids, former secretary of state, get mention and poll well as possible contenders in 2014 for the U.S. Senate seat to be vacated by Democrat Carl Levin.
But pollster Steve Mitchell, whose March 19-21 survey of many possibilities had the two women in a virtual tie in a general election, said, as quoted in the Detroit Free Press: “Neither party has an edge in the general election. None of the candidates have high state-wide name ID, which is one of the reasons there is no clear-cut front-runner.”
The two politically-savvy women do well in a mix that includes some congressmen. If either of them run and should be elected as junior senator to Democrat Debbie Stabenow, Michigan could be one of four states with two female senators—the current ones being California, New Hampshire and Washington.
George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was the political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His weekly Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.