Lansing — A Michigan Republican Party official has been ousted from her post after refusing to back presidential candidate Donald Trump and declining to resign, calling her opposition to the bombastic businessman a “matter of conscience.”
Grassroots Vice Chair Wendy Day had her seat vacated Monday under the order of Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, an unprecedented move in an election year marked by internal fights over the GOP nominee.
Party bylaws allow Romney McDaniel to remove any official who does not support the full ticket, but it’s the first time the provision has ever been invoked, according to spokeswoman Sarah Anderson.
“We are a party governed by rules and bylaws, and supporting the nominees is part of the duty of every officer of the party,” Romney McDaniel said in a letter to state committee members. “Each individual elected to serve in an officer role was very clear on the obligations and duties of their position.”
Day, a Howell resident who rose up the party ranks as a tea party activist and prominent Christian conservative, said Monday she accepts Romney McDaniel’s decision and declined to elaborate on any personal disappointment.
“It’s not a normal year,” Day told The Detroit News. “It’s a strange election year, and so this is just another phase in that strange election year, I guess.”
The ouster was prompted by comments Day made last week on television, where she said she could not support either Trump or Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
The talk show appearance gave “the impression that the party does not support our nominee,” said Romney McDaniel, who noted she asked Day this weekend to either back Trump or “do as her conscience dictates” and resign.
But Day made clear she would do neither. In a Monday letter to Romney McDaniel, Day reiterated her personal opposition to Trump and said she thinks the party should reflect all Republican voices, “not just the loudest.”
“Therefore, I am not resigning,” Day wrote. “Our party deserves leadership that will defend our platform and work to unite the different factions within the party, not divide them. Be assured that I will spend these next few weeks working to get as many Republican voters as possible to the polls to vote for the hundreds of candidates across the state who are counting on us.”
State committee member Matt Hall of Grand Rapids began the dismissal process by asking Romney McDaniel to oust Day after she said on WJBK-TV (Channel 2) that her “conscience is not comfortable” with either Trump or Clinton.
“I think that most Americans are kinda feeling like I am — that neither one is fit for office,” Day said.
Hall told The News earlier Monday he hoped Day would resign but was confident Romney McDaniel would take action if she did not.
“I don’t think substituting her judgment for the decision of Republican Party voters is her job, and for that reason, the rule exists,” Hall said.
Day worked earlier this cycle as state director for the presidential campaign of Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who finished second to Trump in Michigan’s March 8 Republican primary. Cruz declined to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention in July but eventually backed the party nominee in September.
Day “is a political consultant whose candidate for president lost, and so she seems to be using her position to continue to fight that battle, which I think is concerning,” Hall said.
Former Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, who also worked on the Cruz campaign, called Day’s ouster “a huge distraction and a waste of time,” noting she had encouraged straight-ticket GOP voting even though she couldn’t support Trump.
“I don’t necessarily agree with her, but the idea of making this an issue four weeks out of a campaign is more for personal or other political reasons. This in no way helps Trump. This is a distraction for Trump.”
The grassroots chair is responsible for get-out-the-vote efforts and is one of 12 party officers who can be removed for failure to support GOP nominees, Romney McDaniel said. She noted the bylaw does not apply to National Committee members.
“This has been one of the more difficult decisions I have made as chair,” Romney McDaniel said, calling Day a friend. “In coming to this decision, I applied the rule as if the nominee were Mitt Romney, John McCain, Rick Snyder or any other Republican Party nominee.”
In her letter to Romney McDaniel explaining she would not resign, Day praised the party platform and dismissed the suggestion her opposition to Trump is a disservice to the Republican cause.
“I am unable to endorse our Republican Presidential candidate. I certainly cannot support Hillary Clinton either. This simply is a matter of conscience,” Day wrote.
“While some may say that I am not supporting the party, that is simply not true. In fact, in looking long term, I am doing my best to try to protect what the party has stood for.”
In a Sunday letter to state committee members, Romney McDaniel confirmed she had received Hall’s request but would allow Day to respond before making a decision.
“Our mission, as the Michigan Republican Party, is to elect Republicans up and down the ballot,” Romney McDaniel wrote. “I take very seriously any actions that hurt this mission. I have been working nonstop this cycle, raising money and supporting all of our Republican candidates, as have many of you.”
Romney McDaniel, whose uncle Mitt Romney has also refused to support Trump, acknowledged the 2016 election cycle has been “challenging” for Republicans due to party division over the presidential race.
“Over the next 24 days, I would ask that we each let our purpose unite us, that we work together for our nominee Donald Trump and against Hillary Clinton, and do the same for the remainder of our candidates up and down the ballot,” she wrote.