Two party activists compete for national Michigan Republican committee post
Lansing — Two self-described Republican Party activists are vying to represent Michigan on the Republican National Committee at next weekend’s state convention.
Controversial Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema of Grandville is not seeking a second four-year term for the unpaid post, but is endorsing GOP activist Mark Gurley of Rockford.
Gurley has emerged as a late challenger for the seat to Dr. Rob Steele, an Ann Arbor cardiologist who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010 against former Congressman John Dingell, D-Dearborn, and the University of Michigan Board of Regents in 2014.
Michigan Republicans will gather April 9 at their state convention in Lansing to vote on the national committeeman and national committeewoman leadership posts. In a more contentious intraparty battle, the 2,139 state convention delegates also will be voting on the 59 delegates Michigan will send to the July 18-21 Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
Incumbent Committeewoman Kathy Berden is running for her first full term on the Republican National Committee. She won election to the seat last May after then-Committeewoman Ronna Romney McDaniel stepped down to become chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party.
Berden faces a challenge from SonJalita Hulbert of Kalamazoo, a member of Michigan GOP central committee who works in community development for the health insurer AETNA.
Gurley, 49, is a financial adviser, banking consultant and an ordained minister who founded the Healing Hands of Grand Rapids ministry.
A Republican precinct delegate since 2010, Gurley said he was the constituent who convinced Agema to wage a legislative crusade in the Michigan House of Representatives against the use of the Muslim faith-based Sharia law in Michigan’s courts.
As a member of the RNC, Agema has come under fire for social media postings bashing homosexuality and Muslims at a time when the Republican Party is trying to broaden its appeal to the minority groups. Agema steadfastly resisted calls by GOP leaders to resign his position on the RNC.
Gurley said he would carry on Agema’s fight to ensure the GOP adheres to a party platform that doesn’t support gay and lesbian marriage and favors the rights of gun owners and unborn children.
“I want to go and make a constitutional, principled voice to make sure those things stay in the platform,” Gurley told The Detroit News.
He also argues the party platform needs to include total opposition to granting legal status to immigrants who entered the country illegally.
Steele said he wants to unite “different factions of the party,” if elected to the seat.
“This is a position where you should be helping to recruit good candidates, helping them succeed and help bring the message of limited government to everyone,” Steele said.
Agema called Gurley “a patriot from the trenches” of the Republican Party.
“Mark represents the essence of grassroots,” Agema wrote in a letter to supporters. “He owes no one anything and no paybacks, has no visions of grandeur for further office and will serve this state extremely well.”
Both Agema and Gurley suggested Steele may be seeking the national committeeman post as a springboard to an elected office after two previous failed attempts.
“I’m not doing this because I want to seek another position, or try and run for Congress,” Gurley said.
Steele said he’s focused on his medical career and helping Republicans win elections.
“I don’t really have any higher aspirations,” Steele told The Detroit News. “I consider myself to be an activist.”