Top Trump aides back Weiser for Michigan GOP chair

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Grand Rapids – President Donald Trump’s chief of staff and chief strategist are backing a candidate for Michigan Republican Party chairman – and it’s not the guy who ran Trump’s successful state campaign.

Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon this week endorsed longtime Michigan GOP power broker Ron Weiser, the Ann Arbor developer’s campaign announced Friday, the same day Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.

Weiser, a University of Michigan regent, is a wealthy fundraiser who helped raise money for the Trump campaign and inauguration. He is running against Scott Hagerstrom of East Lansing, who was state campaign director for Trump in Michigan, where the brash businessman scored a surprise 10,704-vote win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Priebus and Bannon explained their endorsement in a letter to Michigan Republicans dated Jan. 19, calling Weiser “one of the GOP’s most dedicated leaders who gave himself wholeheartedly” this election cycle.

“This election was one of the most historic victories of our lifetime, largely because (Trump) was able to win historically blue states that we had not won in many years,” they wrote.

“Our task now is to keep Michigan a red state, and Ron Weiser is the right choice to lead that charge as chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.”

Hagerstrom did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.

The state party seat is up for grabs following the promotion of Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel, who succeeded Priebus as chair of the Republican National Committee.

Trump tapped Romney McDaniel for the national post last month, and she was formally elected Thursday during the RNC’s winter meeting in Washington, D.C.

Hagerstrom, who previously served as state director for Americans for Prosperity and ran a campaign against a 2015 gas tax proposal, remains popular with the grassroots. He is expected to speak this weekend at Battle Cry Michigan, an annual gathering of conservative activists. He is also in the midst of a statewide “listening tour.”

But Weiser has aggressively worked to consolidate support since entering the race on Dec. 19 and continues to rack up high-profile endorsements, including backing this week by Republican National Committeeman Rob Steele.

Appearing earlier this month on WKAR-TV’s “Off The Record,” Hagerstrom said his ability to craft a winning GOP message would help him take on a well-funded opponent.

“The message is the Republican Party is a party of constitutional principles, limited government and economic prosperity,” he said.

Michigan Republicans will elect their next chair at a Feb. 10 state convention in Lansing. Weiser and Hagerstrom are the only candidates who filed to run by party’s Jan. 11 hard deadline.