Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 15, 2013

George Weeks: Snyder rebukes GOP national committeeman

Syndicated columnist

---- — Gov. Rick Snyder has wisely denounced Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema’s “wrong, extreme and discriminatory” comments about gays.

Traditonally, Michigan governors, regardless of party, have essentially been on the same page with their state’s national committeemen and women — those who represent the state in the Republican or Democratic National Committees.

But good for Snyder for rebuking Agema, a former state representative from Grandville who has strong support from tea party elements.

As noted by columnist and radio commentator Jack Lessenberry, Agema “seems morbidly obsessed with gay people. He loathes them, and seems creepily fascinated by his mythical version of their lives.”

MLive columnist Ken Braun wrote:

“Mr. Agema is an embarrassment to the state of Michigan, the Michigan Republican Party, and the tea party supporters who elevated him to the position. Last spring, he publicly promoted clearly false and highly derogatory ‘statistics on homosexuals,’ and then refused to retract or apologize, even after a lot of his loopy information was sourced to a confirmed neo-Nazi Holocaust denier.

“Last week, he was at it again, telling a GOP audience in Berrien County the airline industry is filled with male flight attendants seeking domestic partner benefits so as to offload the medical expenses of AIDS-afflicted lovers.”

In reaction, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said:

"What I'd say, plainly and simply, is that the Governor believes Mr. Agema's remarks are wrong, extreme and discriminatory. We shouldn't tolerate discrimination of any kind. There shouldn't be room for that in any political party, period."

Former Gov. William G. Milliken praised Snyder’s position, saying “there’s absolutely no place in the Republican Party for the outrageous views” voiced by Agema.

There is considerable stirring on the issue at the local level. Paul Welday, GOP 14th District chairman, questions: “is this is the approach we are looking for from our party’s leadership?”

Dan Pero, top strategist for ex-Gov. John Engler, said Republicans should “reject Agema’s silly bigoted comments.”

An effective advocate on the issue is Dennis Lennox, a former Cheboygan local official who’s now a Grand Traverse County GOP precinct delegate and Mount Pleasant Morning Sun columnist who beats the drums against Agema’s views.

Snyder took the right position on this issue but will he do it on a big one on campaign finance that is about to hit his desk?

Double campaign gift limit?

As Executive Director Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network put it, “We’ll see whether (Snyder) will govern in accordance with the platform of ethics in government on which he ran as a candidate.”

Robinson, writing a commentary in the Detroit Free Press about the bill that would double campaign contribution limits for elected state officials and let donors of “issue ads” to be anonymous, said the bill “would enable dark money to dominate Michigan’s political campaigns for the foreseeable future.”

The bill thwarts Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s proposed rule to require public disclosure of most third-party spending.

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.