John Heriznay salutes during the Pledge of Allegiance at the Oakland County convention Thursday. (Elizabeth Conley / The Detroit News)
Waterford— Tea party activists dominated a portion of the Oakland County Republican Party’s convention Thursday night, electing delegates for a state convention who could influence the nomination of Gov. Rick Snyder’s running mate.
A faction of conservative activists elected Milford bail bondsman Matt Maddock to run the 11th Congressional District meeting, ousting an Oakland County GOP official and installing their preference of delegates for the Aug. 23 Michigan Republican Party convention.
“It was the establishment against people who are tired of the establishment,” said Frank James Cavanaugh, a White Lake resident who won a state convention delegate slot. “We all try to have unity, but it wasn’t shown here tonight.”
Maddock said he didn’t know how many of the delegates from his faction would support Lt. Gov. Brian Calley over tea party challenger Wes Nakagiri at the state convention in Novi.
“We’ll have to see at convention,” Maddock said after the contentious meeting. “I think the conservative movement had a victory tonight.”
State convention delegates normally select the governor’s choice for a running mate.
But Nakagiri is mounting a credible challenge of the incumbent, arguing Calley should be replaced on the statewide ticket because Snyder hasn’t governed on strict conservative principles. Tea party activists decry the governor’s support of Medicaid expansion, higher gas taxes and federally endorsed Common Core education standards.
Oakland County GOP leaders vowed to challenge the 11th District delegates before the state party’s credentials committee next week.
“They violated rules all the way up and down the road,” said Jim Thienel, chairman of the Oakland County Republican Party.
Thienel hired Waterford Township police to patrol the county convention at Oakland Schools’ campus in Waterford. At the start of the meeting, Thienel got grumbles from the crowd after he announced the added security measures.
Waterford Township sent at least six uniformed police officers and an undisclosed number of plainclothes officers, which the county party will pay for, Thienel said.
Though there were moments when the 11th District meeting got disorderly, nobody was ejected or arrested.
Delegates elected to attend the state convention could decide whether Snyder gets to keep Calley on the ticket or if he has to seek re-election with Nakagiri on the November ballot.
About 2,135 state convention delegates choose the GOP’s candidates for lieutenant governor, statewide education boards, attorney general and secretary of state. The state convention delegates are mostly chosen from a field of 6,500 precinct delegates elected in the August primary.
The battle Thursday night in Waterford was more intense than others across the state because 281 of the total delegates come from Oakland County, with the majority of those coming out of the 11th District. The slate was 121 delegates from the 11th District.
“There’s a lot riding on this,” said Paul Welday, chairman of the GOP’s 14th Congressional District committee. “There’s going to have to be a huge credential challenge of what happened tonight. What was done here tonight can’t stand.”
'It was fair'
Maddock is a tea party activist who lost a Republican state Senate primary last week to Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake.
At the beginning of the 11th District caucus meeting, Maddock’s supporters elected him chairman of the district’s convention, ousting the presiding chairwoman, Melissa Fazio Bogdalek, a member of the Oakland County GOP executive committee.
Maddock did not have a list of the delegates elected, but said some of Fazio Bogdalek’s supporters were included in the slate of delegates and alternates.
“I think it was fair,” Maddock said of the delegates elected.
Fazio Bogdalek’s supporters decried the process as Maddock pushed through a slate of delegates and alternates amid parliamentary backlash from the crowd.
“It seemed as if the rules were not properly followed,” said Chris Kulesza, a precinct delegate from Troy who was passed up for a state convention delegate spot.
Maddock’s supporters outnumbered Fazio Bogdalek’s supporters by a 2-to-1 margin.
“Clearly the tea party was well organized,” said Glenn Clark, a GOP activist from Troy who got elected to Maddock’s slate of delegates.
Clark would not say who he supported in the vote for the chair.
“It seems like the people who were elected as delegates are very active in the Republican Party,” Clark said. “These aren’t outsiders, they’re part of the family.”