Showdown In Motown
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
I have, my entire adult life, desired to accomplish one thing above all others. Beyond what normal men might find worth aspiring to, I have always wanted to win one when it really mattered. To just once be the guy it all rides on when it's on the line . . . and deliver the goods. To slay the dragon, save the world, and get the girl . . . film at eleven. To, for one moment in time, have my "A game" firing on all cylinders . . . and be utterly unstoppable.
However, God, in his wisdom, has heretofore seen fit to withhold from me such success . . . until last weekend.
Despite what he may have implied in his many e-mails over the past seven weeks or so (beginning with his Palm Sunday musing), I harbor no personal animosity toward Saul Anuzis, Neither I, nor John Yob, nor Chuck Yob, nor Glenn Clark, nor Gus Portela, nor anyone else working for Strategic National get out of bed in the morning devising ways to put the screws to our intra-party political opposition. While I won't presume to speak for any of my co-workers, I will say that I've made it really clear at least once on this site that I take considerable umbrage to baseless challenges to my integrity . . . and such an attack will very rarely go unanswered.
Some Background Is In Order
I, along with many others in the statewide tea party network, had already built up a considerable amount of personal, professional, and political disgust over the status quo, business as usual mindset of the Michigan Republican Party leadership that seemed to be more interested in their positions of status and influence than in anything else. The August 2010 state convention was seen as evidence of the lengths to which the establishment bluebloods would go to box the tea partiers out of the process. The January 2011 state convention provided the same elites with an opportunity to reveal their true contempt for the very people that they claim to need every time a general election campaign rolls around, and they didn't waste it. The Michigan Dele-Gate Fiasco was the final straw; that the MIGOP Rules Committee would engage in a middle-of-the-night, telephonic smoky backroom deal in order to vote in an ex post facto override of the published and promulgated delegate allocation rules for no other purpose than to preserve the narrative of a "favorite son" win, rubbed the liberty-minded, rule-of-law grassroots the wrong way one time too many.
That particular act of political larceny, coupled with the non-stop efforts to inveigle, obfuscate, and stonewall by Bobby Schostak, Sharon Wise, and Saul Anuzis, did not appear to stand up well under the relentless reporting by RightMichigan and several Michigan-based tea party sites (especially once the paper trail was lined up for all to follow). Before the scandal was even a week old, outcry was already being heard throughout the tea party and grassroots network that the blueblood elites in state party had to answer for this, and the sooner the better. The focus of the outrage quickly coalesced on Saul Anuzis, especially once speculation started circulating that "Dele-Gate" may have been a trial balloon for the NPV. When Saul declared his intention to run for re-election as Michigan's Republican National Committeeman, quickly announcing an impressive list of establishment blueblood old guard endorsements, I countered with "To Accomplish Replacement . . . And Why," explaining to the RightMichigan readership the necessary details of the convention rules and summarizing the already-well-known case against Anuzis. Saul's response, the aforementioned Palm Sunday Musing, was to essentially rekindle a four year grudge match (perhaps going back even further) that should have been history at least three years ago . . . not exactly champion conduct from someone desiring a full term as one of Michigan's representatives on the RNC.
Evidently, in laying out the methodology and rationale for leveraging Anuzis' ouster, I'd clearly struck a nerve. And as I was drafting my response to his musing, I started receiving phone calls and e-mails from people wanting to know whom we could replace Anuzis with. The more of those calls and letters I fielded, the more I started thinking seriously about whom might be a suitable "credible challenger" to enter the arena and challenge Anuzis in a way that might successfully unseat him. A couple of weeks and a dozen phone conversations later, I found myself in a Monday conference room meeting with the candidate and several people who were about to become key players in a grassroots insurgency.
Let's Get Busy Campaigning
The discussions that afternoon were primarily strategic in nature and centered around answering one key question: How do we go about defeating a well-entrenched incumbent, in the space of five weeks, when he has at his disposal every imaginable advantage of incumbency (specifically including a three-week head start)? I tell you truthfully that no one in that room ever mentioned the possibility that this couldn't be done; we all got busy deciding who was going to focus on what operational assignments, and which pieces of the puzzle had to fit together when in order to make this happen. Hell, I was so involved in the strategy session that Jason scooped me on the then-breaking news that Dave Agema would be challenging Saul Anuzis.
As you might expect, word got around very quickly that a credible challenger had stepped onto the field (and there was much rejoicing). Saul, for his part, diplomatically welcomed his high-profile challenger, but in paragraph # 4 promptly started with the smoke-and-mirrors regarding his actions with respect to the National Popular Vote movement. And in his very next blog post, Saul seemed to indicate how he was going to fight this campaign: Rather than go after Dave directly, he'd target Dave's "handlers" by way of alleging inaccuracies in their campaign communications. Apparently, the direct attacks on Dave's NPV position shift would be left to surrogates (both well-known and otherwise), who would attempt to paint it as a political flip-flop rather than as a principled change of mind.
Saul also attempted to respond to the NPV issue by downplaying its significance ("... I believe it is a moot issue and should have nothing to do with this race ..."), or insisting that if it should be, then Dave Agema has a greater share of guilt because he was a legislator who had actually voted in favor of it, and Agema's "handlers" were being dishonest and misleading by making this an issue. Of course, NPV wasn't the only avenue of attack that would be leveled on Saul's record, something that a campaign e-mail and an audio message sent out by Jennifer Gratz would make clear. The pesky thing about having a publicly available record is that, sooner or later, you're going to get called on it. Between MCRI, NPV, Dele-Gate, and a laundry list of examples of Saul Anuzis' abject failure as state party chair over the course of two election cycles (2006 and 2008), all of which were consistent with overarching sloppy leadership (being out-of-step with Reagan conservatism, no actual major electoral accomplishments, blown campaign opportunities, and lopsided defeats) . . . let's just say that there was plenty of fodder with which to make the case for ouster and leave it at that.
Fair or not, a Politico article that was published less than a week after Dave Agema's announcement contained a quote from Saul that didn't do his "I'm not an elitist" approach any favors:
Michigan national committeeman Saul Anuzis, who has twice run for RNC chair, is being challenged by a term-limited state representative.
Meanwhile, back here in Michigan, Saul continued to insist on apologizing for the negative tone of the campaign, engage in backhanded attacks on his principal challenger, and accuse certain Agema For RNC campaign team members of engaging in dirty politics. Apparently, Mr. Anuzis didn't get the memo that Reagan's Eleventh Commandment doesn't protect a fellow Republican against legitimate, fair, and verifiable challenges based on his record. Saul could kvetch all he wanted to, but his record is what it is, all the phone canvassing money can buy won't change that, and I was getting word that even some of the establishment had had enough.
In the two and a half weeks between Agema's official announcement and the Republican County Conventions, key endorsements (such as the iCaucus of Michigan and Congressman Justin Amash) rolled in, and so did at least 203 assorted tea party activists and grassroots conservatives. The Agema For RNC campaign team had also successfully recruited 28 district whips, and by the time the county conventions were called to order, internal polling had the National Committeeman race as a statistical dead heat between Agema and Anuzis; not bad for two and a half weeks of solid hustle.
Of course, it was after the county conventions that things really started to get interesting. Dan Wholihan and Prudy Adam offered their reasons for backing Anuzis, who, for his part, continued to take pot shots at Dave Agema and his supporters, provided us with a video (the link is not currently working) that highlighted his qualifications for the position, and summarized one of his glowing legitimate successes as state party chair. (The "Soap Opera" and "Told You So" audio links are working.) A "Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network" e-mail countered by pointing out Saul's business relationship with the NPV effort, and linking to a Politico article from January 2011 featuring a letter from Alaska's Republican National Committeewoman Debbie Joslin that flagged Saul Anuzis as completely unfit to be RNC chair, in large part due to using a mimicry of RNC letterhead in his communiqués to state legislators advocating for the passage of the NPV.
But the kicker of the week was a live survey call that the recipients I spoke with (at least on the first day of the calls) all said came from the Republican National Committee, or so the caller claimed. Putting the puzzle pieces together yielded that the most likely explanation was a botched recon operation on behalf of either Mitt Romney or Saul Anuzis (and most probably both) using information that the recon team wasn't supposed to have just then.
The week of the convention began with Saul once again showing off some high-profile establishment support, which would continue with separate announcements of support from Joseph Cella, Barbara Harrell, Justin Phillips, Tony Dugal, Jim Rhoades, and several former MIGOP chairs. The baseless negativity also continued, however, with an attempt at dividing the ad hoc alliance between dedicated Ron Paul supporters and committed Dave Agema supporters, and also with a "Patriots Truth Squad" e-mail that amounted to anonymous pot shots at Dave Agema's credibility, which was easily rebutted by Jason (and drew a response from one Ronald Reisterer). Tom McMillin's endorsement of Agema, however, continued to keep the NPV issue on the front burner (especially with a "smoking gun" link to Saul's NPV memo to Michigan Republicans), and a caucus-morning article from the Detroit CBS station also reminded us of "Dele-Gate" and the insistence of the Anuzis camp on turning this into a personal fight between Saul and John Yob.
Before I transition to the rundown of what happened on the caucus and convention floors, I'd like to point out something that I haven't mentioned yet (and which probably didn't receive much coverage). The entire five weeks between Dave Agema's candidacy announcement and the State Convention, I can tell you with a considerable degree of certainty that the Agema For RNC campaign team was focused on a grand total of one thing: vote whipping. Endorsements are nice (even an endorsement list that expanded to 563 the morning before the district caucuses), but if those endorsements don't translate into votes, then they're worthless. For five weeks, Dave Agema was attending an average of two events per day, and the district whips (a number that had ultimately expanded to at least 59 strong) were relentlessly calling through county lists and district workbooks to verify where delegates and alternates stood on the National Committeeman question, flagging "undecideds" and "leaners" for follow-up, and then doing it again. Elections go to those who show up, and the efforts of the district whips were intended to maximize turnout.
The Reckoning And The Aftermath
Prior to the District Caucuses, the Michigan Faith & Freedom Coalition hosted a "Conservative Delegates Summit." In attendance were all three candidates for National Committeeman (Dave Agema, Saul Anuzis, and G. J. LaRouche), both candidates for National Committeewoman (Holly Hughes and Terri Lynn Land), all five candidates who'd filed their petitions for the Republican Primary (Clark Durant, Gary Glenn, Randy Hekman, Pete Hoekstra, and Peter Konetchy), Save Our States (a pro-Electoral College organization), Jane Markey (a candidate for the SCOMI seat being vacated by Marilyn Kelly), and Bill Schuette. I wasn't there myself, as I was busy explaining why credibility must be restored to the party, but I'm told that Saul's presentation was met with a politely tepid response, and that Dave's presentation received a pretty enthusiastic ovation. That would be pretty much the story in each of the district caucuses later in the evening. Twice previously during the campaign (on Tuesday, May 8th and Wednesday, May 16th) Saul had effectively asked to be judged on his record; this night, he echoed that request.
In Agema's convention hall campaign outpost, a small team of campaign operatives worked deep into the night (well past 3:00 a.m., I'm told) -- getting maybe two hours sleep before picking the work back up again -- compiling data from whip reports and internal polling so that the whip team on the convention floor could have the most accurate information available. By the time the State Convention was called to order, the word that the whip team was getting was that Agema was up, 60-40.
The entire whip crew continued with polite relentlessness to talk to any delegate who wasn't wearing either an "Agema" or an "Anuzis" sticker, all the way through the close of the voting in their respective districts. They also made a point of keeping an eye on the voting areas themselves, lest anyone attempt any last-minute shenanigans. As voting machine tapes were being printed out, and diligently copied, the crew started comparing notes . . . and started feeling really good about what was going to happen next.
A "ballot box blowout" is normally understood as anything over sixty-eight percent. The overall vote totals at the convention (modified unit rule to reflect a total delegation of 2,124) were these:
Had we had the votes necessary at the Convention Rules Committee meeting the previous weekend to leverage a change allowing for an "immediate effect" condition, the word would have passed quickly (perhaps through a "point of order" request at the nearest available microphone) to reject Saul's motion for a unanimous ballot, because it's passage was a parliamentarian maneuver intended to keep the results from being published as part of the convention record. Regardless, we can now refer to Dave Agema as Michigan's Republican National Committeeman-Elect (who, by the way, I'm told promptly endorsed Jack Hoogendyk in his primary contest against Fred Upton).
Saul ceded the race on his FaceBook page and Twitter feed before getting up to make his motion on from the platform. The Detroit News, MLive Network, Times-Herald, Detroit Free Press, Star-Tribune, Politico, Human Events, and even the Arkansas Republican Assembly News Service all ran with the story. Saul also started out congratulatory in his Weekly Musing the following morning, but didn't waste much time taking a swipe at "political consultants and related operatives" as a cancer within the state party, and decrying their strategies (apparently forgetting that he's been known to use those same strategies himself) John Yob's response to the between-the-lines insult resulted in a MIRS news piece, that Saul was only too happy to repost on Monday morning, which had the Grand Rapids Press running with an article on Tuesday that the intra-party heavyweight grudge match was back on. (I'm not sure that Saul's interview with Frank Beckman helped matters any.)
As has already been circulated on several tea party forums (and even here) the MIGOP State Committee, in their meeting immediately following the convention, passed what was referred to as the "Anuzis Amendment" to amend Rule # 9 of the MIGOP Convention Rules "to strike any language that requires a Precinct Delegate to be present in order to have preference." Apparently, the blueblood elites don't want the "... hard-working Republicans, who may not be precinct delegates ..." monkeying around with their system, and they're willing to ignore the "... no preference is given to anyone who does not attend the county convention ..." proviso of the rule in order to do it. (And you thought only the Democrats rewarded laziness.) More on this in another article, but I suspect that it'll be coming back to bite the state party in the ass, say `round the July 2012 State Committee meeting.
I began this report by referencing how thrilled I was to get one big win when it really counted. While that's certainly true, I'd be either a fool or a liar if I were to claim that I pulled this off by myself. The other members of the campaign team, the district whips, and 1,467 voting delegates who'd decided that enough was enough of Saulius all had a hand in it. The State Party was sent a loud and clear message last weekend . . . I know they heard it, maybe they were listening, but I don't know if they understood.
Showdown In Motown | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)
Showdown In Motown | 6 comments (6 topical, 0 hidden)
Related Links+ Scoop
+ made it really clear at least once
+ August 2010 state convention
+ January 2011 state convention
+ and they didn't waste it
+ Michigan Dele-Gate Fiasco
+ ex post facto override
+ for no other purpose than to preserve the narrative
+ Bobby Schostak
+ Sharon Wise
+ Saul Anuzis
+ paper trail was lined up for all to follow
+ outcry was already being heard
+ outrage quickly coalesced on Saul Anuzis
+ intention to run for re-election
+ impressive list of establishment blueblood old guard endorsements
+ To Accomplish Replacement . . . And Why
+ aforementi oned Palm Sunday Musing
+ rekindle a four year grudge match
+ my response to his musing
+ Jason scooped me on the then-breaking news
+ word got around very quickly
+ and there was much rejoicing
+ diplomatic ally welcomed his high-profile challenger
+ his very next blog post
+ campaign communications
+ downplayin g its significance
+ campaign e-mail
+ audio message
+ published less than a week
+ continued to insist on apologizing
+ Reagan's Eleventh Commandment
+ all the phone canvassing money can buy
+ iCaucus of Michigan
+ Congressma n Justin Amash
+ at least 203 assorted tea party activists and grassroots conservatives
+ county conventions
+ Dan Wholihan
+ Prudy Adam
+ continued to take pot shots
+ provided us with a video
+ one of his glowing legitimate successes
+ Soap Opera
+ Told You So
+ Michigan Tea Party Patriot Network
+ business relationship with the NPV effort
+ Politico article from January 2011
+ mimicry of RNC letterhead in his communiqués
+ live survey call
+ the most likely explanation
+ week of the convention
+ high-profi le establishment support
+ Joseph Cella
+ Barbara Harrell
+ Justin Phillips
+ Tony Dugal
+ Jim Rhoades
+ several former MIGOP chairs
+ dividing the ad hoc alliance
+ Patriots Truth Squad
+ drew a response from one Ronald Reisterer
+ endorsemen t of Agema
+ smoking gun
+ caucus-mor ning article from the Detroit CBS station
+ endorsemen t list that expanded to 563
+ Conservati ve Delegates Summit
+ credibilit y must be restored
+ Tuesday, May 8th
+ Wednesday, May 16th
+ Detroit News
+ MLive Network
+ Times-Hera ld
+ Detroit Free Press
+ Star-Tribu ne
+ Human Events
+ Arkansas Republican Assembly News Service
+ Weekly Musing the following morning
+ been known to use those same strategies himself
+ Saul was only too happy to repost on Monday morning
+ Grand Rapids Press running with an article on Tuesday
+ Saul's interview with Frank Beckman
+ and even here
+ MIGOP Convention Rules
+ Also by Kevin Rex Heine