Cox to lead Michigan Republican Party in runup to 2020 election

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Former Livonia State Rep. Laura Cox, who is running for the Michigan Republican Chair, acknowledges the crowd after accepting her nomination during the MIGOP State Convention, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, at the Lansing Center.

Lansing -— Former state representative Laura Cox will lead Michigan Republicans as they fight to retain control of the presidency, the state House and state Supreme Court in 2020.

Delegates elected Cox to replace former Chairman Ron Weiser, who announced at the convention that he is fighting prostate cancer.

The 54-year-old Livonia woman, who received an early and important endorsement from President Donald Trump's 2020 campaign manager Brad Parscale, took the stage briefly following her election with her co-chair Terry Bowman, president of Union Conservatives and an advocate of the state’s right-to-work law.

Wearing a bejeweled MAGA pin at the convention, Cox said messaging that conveys Trump's track record will be key to repeating the president's 2016 surprise success in Michigan in 2020. She said the party will work to secure wins for Republicans up and down the ballot. 

The party also will focus on increased fundraising and outreach to female and youth voters, perhaps through a more focused digital presence, Cox told reporters.

"We're really excited. The president's really excited. Michigan is his pathway to victory," Cox said. "We want to make sure we deliver here in Michigan." 

Cox is a former Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent and Wayne County commissioner. She served in the state House from 2014 to 2018, before losing a state Senate run in November to Democratic Rep. Dayna Polehanki. 

Cox and her husband, former Attorney General Mike Cox, have four children.

Cox’s election Saturday means that both major parties in Michigan will be led by women a few months after a “pink wave” swept several Michigan offices, including governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Lavora Barnes was elected chairwoman of the Michigan Democratic Party in early February.

GOP Rep. Shane Hernandez, while nominating Cox Saturday, highlighted the Livonia Republican’s endorsement from the Trump campaign and her tough stances on controversial issues.

“I’ve seen the need for leadership from all perspectives and I look no farther than Laura Cox,” Hernandez said.

After about an hour of voting, Cox's opponent, GOP Field organization Gina Barr of Pontiac, called for a unanimous ballot in favor of Cox. 

"Let this race be a message to everyone: Don't quit," Barr said. "If the odds are stacked against you, don't quit. If people slander your name, don't quit."

Pontiac resident Gina Barr, who is running for the Michigan Republican Chair, greets a supporter during the MIGOP State Convention, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Mich.  (Jose Juarez/Special to Detroit News)

Like many of the speakers Saturday, Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel focused her convention message around job creation, reduced poverty and criminal justice reform under Trump, while condemning tax-funded and government-controlled proposals for free health care and college.

“Government will be making every decision for you in your life,” McDaniel said.

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel addresses the crowd during the MIGOP State Convention, Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019, held at the Lansing Center in Lansing, Mich.  (Jose Juarez/Special to Detroit News)

McDaniel, the former chairwoman for the Michigan Republican Party, thanked Weiser and those who ran for office in 2018. “Ron never retires,” she said. “He gives everything to all that he does.”

Prior to announcing his cancer diagnosis, Weiser said he will spend the future months working as the national financial chair for the re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine and the financial chair for the House Republican Campaign Committee.

He asked for prayers in his fight against cancer and acknowledged the efforts invested in the 2018 election, in which Democrats gained seats in the state House and Senate and swept the offices of Michigan governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

"We did everything we could despite a very significant headwind blowing against Republicans," Weiser said.

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