December 4th, 2008
12:13 PM ET
6 years ago

Preston on Politics: A grudge in the RNC race

A former Michigan GOP Senate candidate is trying to derail Saul Anunzis’ candidacy for RNC chairman.
A former Michigan GOP Senate candidate is trying to derail Saul Anunzis’ candidacy for RNC chairman.

(CNN) – Political grudges die hard - and in some cases not at all. That’s the case in Michigan, where a former GOP Senate candidate is trying to derail state Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis’ bid to lead the national party.

Jerry Zandstra, who unsuccessfully sought the party’s Senate nomination in 2006, sent out a blistering blast e-mail Wednesday evening listing the reasons why he thinks Anuzis is not qualified to be the next Republican National Committee chairman. Zandstra says that under Anuzis’ leadership, Democrats made gains in Michigan, and that the state GOP chairman is not a qualified fundraiser.

But Zandstra’s biggest gripe is spelled out in the first paragraph, where he accuses Anuzis of “interference” in the GOP primary. Later in the e-mail, he writes that “Saul did everything possible to disrupt my campaign.”

Anuzis disputed all of these charges early Thursday afternoon in a point-by-point rebuttal of Zandstra’s e-mail.

“You may not know Jerry Zandstra, but all of you have a 'Jerry Zandstra' in your state: someone who decides, out of the blue, to seek statewide office; pursues that office through less than honorable tactics; fails to collect the minimum number of signatures to even be placed on the ballot; and then blames the State Party and its chairman for his failures,” Anuzis wrote in his response.

In an e-mail exchange, Zandstra told me this morning he was not supporting nor acting on behalf of another candidate.

“This, for me, is personal, as perhaps you could see from the tone and content of my email,” Zandstra wrote. “Saul has been a destructive force in the Michigan GOP, and I don't want to see him bring his unique style of leadership to the national stage.”

Among those who received Zandstra’s blast email were reporters and most of the RNC members who will meet in January to choose the new head of the party.

Full Text of Zandstra’s e-mail and Anuzis’ response after the jump

Dear RNC Member,

If you believe the future of the GOP is in building a grassroots organization and utilizing volunteers, then Saul Anuzis will not be your choice for the RNC Chair. I am from Michigan and ran in the US Senate primary in 2006. Saul’s interference into that race was the stuff of legends.

One incident pretty well sums up my experience of Saul’s leadership style. When I decided to run for the US Senate, I knew it would be an uphill fight. As a pastor and an academic working at a think-tank, I was not steeped in party politics. So I spent several years building my own database on Michigan voters. I also had to rely on as many volunteers as I could find, many of whom were getting involved in the political process for the first time. This was, in the very best sense of the word, a true grassroots operation.

Saul dismissed my candidacy at first. When 150 volunteers showed up at the kick-off event of Michigan Republican politics on Mackinac Island, he and others knew we meant business. From that point on, Saul did everything possible to disrupt my campaign.

At one of the quarterly meetings of the state committee, Saul saw a group of my volunteers having dinner at a local restaurant. He gathered up empty beer bottles at a nearby table, brought them to the table where my volunteers were sitting, placed them on the table and told the volunteers that perhaps they should collect the deposit money to help raise money for the campaign.

It is hard enough to get people to volunteer to be part of the political process. This kind of sneering remark completely disheartened those who were getting involved for the first time.

Because of incidents like this, although we are happy that Saul Anuzis will not be re-elected as Chairman of the Michigan Republican State Committee, we hope that you will not allow him to do to the RNC what he did to the Michigan Republican Party.

1) Since Saul Anuzis became Chairman, Michigan Republicans have lost 17 Republican-held State House seats, two incumbent Republican members of Congress, four Republican held University board seats, numerous open seats, and an incumbent Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He has not won a single targeted race since becoming Chairman.

2) He put the party in $250,000 in debt in an off-election year. It indeed might be normal for some state party organizations to go in debt in an election year. Under Saul Anuzis, the Michigan Republican Party went in debt in 2007. After the information was filed in their public report it made headlines of the front page of the Detroit News and he lost any trust he has until that point in the donor community. He will unable to raise the money necessary to help our candidates compete in 2008. Maybe his plan includes beer bottle deposits.

3) The McCain campaign pulled out of Michigan because they did not believe they could win the state. It was not a secret that they were unable to work with the Michigan Republican Party and that is one reason why Michigan did not end up a targeted state. Simply put, Saul Anuzis is not able to bring people together and turned the MIGOP into an internal war-zone and probably the most dysfunctional and factionalized party organization in the country.

4) Although it is accurate that Saul has been a leader on using blogging technology to increase communication with grassroots Republicans, many of us in the state view his activity as self-promotion rather than helping candidates. There are numerous instances of Republican officeholders who have been upset with Anuzis releasing information without their approval.

5) When he became Chairman, he hired several staffers of Sterling Corporation including Vice President Jeff Timmer as Executive Director. As many as six former Sterling staffers have worked at the MIGOP. He quickly moved almost all of the MIGOP business to Sterling Corporation. He took sides in contested primaries in races that involved Sterling Corporation. There have been allegations that he receives financial compensation from Sterling Corporation but I have not yet seen direct evidence of this. His race for RNC Chairman is now run by Katie Packer, who formerly worked for Sterling Corporation.

6) He took a salary of $175,000 per year from the MIGOP. This is one of the reason that donors cut off party support several months ago.

If want a RNC Chairman who mocks grassroots activism, loses every race, gives himself a dramatic pay raise, moves all the business to one consulting firm that he has extremely close ties to, and focuses more on his own ambition than winning elections for Republicans, then Saul Anuzis should be your candidate.

If you care what is best for the Republican National Committee, I strongly urge you to consider ANY other candidate. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call my cell at XXX.XXX.XXXX.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jerry Zandstra
President, Pro-life Federation
Brownback for President National Steering Committee Member
2006 GOP Candidate for US Senate

SAUL ANUZIS RESPONSE

From: Saul Anuzis – Anuzis for Chair
Date: Thu, Dec 4, 2008 at 12:21 PM
Subject: Setting the record straight

Many of my friends on the RNC received the below email from Jerry Zandstra, a disgruntled activist in Michigan. I felt it was important to respond directly and not appear as though I was hiding from any of his false, negative claims.

You may not know Jerry Zandstra, but all of you have a 'Jerry Zandstra' in your state: someone who decides, out of the blue, to seek statewide office; pursues that office through less than honorable tactics; fails to collect the minimum number of signatures to even be placed on the ballot; and then blames the State Party and its chairman for his failures. Zanstra even became embroiled in a dispute with Right to Life of Michigan and its much-respected and long-serving president. In response, he created the so-called Pro-life Federation that has questionable membership, has raised little money, and has made little or no impact in electing pro-life candidates.

Zandstra went to great expense to buy the services of John Yob, son of then-National Committeeman Chuck Yob, in exchange for Chuck's refusal to sign a Rule 11 document that would have helped Keith Butler's candidacy. And when a 3rd candidate joined the race, one who ultimately won the GOP primary, he went on the attack against that individual as well. Zandstra and the Yobs have spent a great deal of time attacking me in the last several years. I have mostly ignored them, as I have enjoyed near unanimous support from our District Chairs, County Chairs, Congressional Delegation, and grassroots activists in the state and have been elected chairman twice, both times unanimously. I recognize that even the best leaders have naysayers and attackers, but I choose to focus on the scores of people with positive contributions to make.

That said, I want to respond to Zandstra's attacks, so there is no nagging question in your mind. Please see my responses in CAPS below - Saul Anuzis

Dear RNC Member,

If you believe the future of the GOP is in building a grassroots organization and utilizing volunteers, then Saul Anuzis will not be your choice for the RNC Chair. I am from Michigan and ran in the US Senate primary in 2006. Saul's interference into that race was the stuff of legends.

One incident pretty well sums up my experience of Saul's leadership style. When I decided to run for the US Senate, I knew it would be an uphill fight. As a pastor and an academic working at a think-tank, I was not steeped in party politics. So I spent several years building my own database on Michigan voters. I also had to rely on as many volunteers as I could find, many of whom were getting involved in the political process for the first time. This was, in the very best sense of the word, a true grassroots operation.

Saul dismissed my candidacy at first. When 150 volunteers showed up at the kick-off event of Michigan Republican politics on Mackinac Island, he and others knew we meant business. From that point on, Saul did everything possible to disrupt my campaign.

NOT TRUE. JERRY ZANDSTRA WAS UNKNOWN IN MICHIGAN REPUBLICAN PARTY CIRCLES. THE GRASSROOTS GOP LEADERSHIP IN HIS COUNTY HAD NOT HEARD OF HIM. AT THAT TIME KEITH BUTLER, OUR CURRENT NATIONAL COMMITTEEMAN, WAS THE MOST WELL KNOWN CANDIDATE AND HAD BEEN ACTIVE IN GOP POLITICS FOR MANY DECADES. KEITH WAS AN OUTSTANDING CANDIDATE, AS WAS SHERIFF MICHAEL BOUCHARD, (SHERIFF OF OUR LARGEST REPUBLICAN COUNTY, WHO WENT ON TO WIN THE NOMINATION.) BOTH HAD BROAD SUPPORT AND FELT I TREATED THEM FAIRLY. JERRY ZANDSTRA, WHO HAD NEVER SERVED IN ELECTIVE OFFICE ANYWHERE, AND HAD NEVER BEEN ACTIVE IN GOP POLITICS, FAILED TO COLLECT ENOUGH LEGAL SIGNATURES TO MAKE THE BALLOT. HE WAS NEVER ON THE BALLOT IN MICHIGAN.

At one of the quarterly meetings of the state committee, Saul saw a group of my volunteers having dinner at a local restaurant. He gathered up empty beer bottles at a nearby table, brought them to the table where my volunteers were sitting, placed them on the table and told the volunteers that perhaps they should collect the deposit money to help raise money for the campaign.

THIS QUITE SIMPLY DID NOT HAPPEN. I NEVER DISPARAGED JERRY ZANDSTRA'S VOLUNTEERS. EVEN WHEN APPROACHED BY SEVERAL STAFFERS WHO QUIT HIS CAMPAIGN AND MADE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST HIM THAT THEY WANTED ME TO PROMOTE, I REFUSED TO BE A PARTY TO THOSE ACTIVITIES. I HAVE SPENT FOUR YEARS TIRELESSLY TRAVELING THE STATE TO MEET WITH OUR GRASSROOTS. I HAVE LISTENED TO THEIR CONCONCERNS AND HAVE TAKEN TO HEART THEIR SUGGESTIONS ON HOW WE CAN IMPROVE THE PARTY. AT EVERY STEP ALONG THE WAY, I HAVE WORKED TO INCLUDE THE GRASSROOTS AT ALL LEVELS OF PARTY OPERATIONS.

It is hard enough to get people to volunteer to be part of the political process. This kind of sneering remark completely disheartened those who were getting involved for the first time.

Because of incidents like this, although we are happy that Saul Anuzis will not be re-elected as Chairman of the Michigan Republican State Committee, we hope that you will not allow him to do to the RNC what he did to the Michigan Republican Party.

1) Since Saul Anuzis became Chairman, Michigan Republicans have lost 17 Republican-held State House seats, two incumbent Republican members of Congress, four Republican held University board seats, numerous open seats, and an incumbent Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He has not won a single targeted race since becoming Chairman.

NOT TRUE. IN 2006, A TERRIBLE YEAR FOR THE GOP NATIONALLY, THE MICHIGAN REPUBLICAN PARTY SAW ALL OF OUR STATEWIDE INCUMBENTS GET RE-ELECTED; SAW OUR ENTIRE CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION RE-ELECTED; HELD ON TO OUR MAJORITY IN THE STATE SENATE, AND KEPT THE DAMAGES IN THE STATE HOUSE TO A MINIMUM. AND WE EXCEEDED OUR FUNDRAISING GOALS. WE WERE DISAPPOINTED NOT TO WIN THE GOVERNOR'S SEAT AND THE U.S. SENATE SEAT AGAINST POPULAR FEMALE DEMOCRAT INCUMBENTS, BUT GIVEN THE YEAR, WE FELT WE PUT OUR BEST EFFORT FORWARD. 2008 WAS ANOTHER STORY. THE NATIONAL CLIMATE HIT MICHIGAN HARD. AND THE VERY PUBLIC WITHDRAWAL OF THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN IN MICHIGAN HIT US HARD AS WELL. I HAVE BEEN OPEN AND HONEST IN MY ASSESSMENT THAT UNTIL OUR PARTY NATIONALLY GETS BACK TO OUR CONSERVATIVE CORE PRINCIPLES AND SPEAKS WITH CONVICTION – AND ACTION – TO THOSE PRINCIPLES, STATES LIKE MICHIGAN WILL NOT GO REPUBLICAN. WE HAVE TO MAKE FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURAL CHANGES TO OUR PARTY AND THAT'S WHY I'M RUNNING.

2) He put the party in $250,000 in debt in an off-election year. It indeed might be normal for some state party organizations to go in debt in an election year. Under Saul Anuzis, the Michigan Republican Party went in debt in 2007. After the information was filed in their public report it made headlines of the front page of the Detroit News and he lost any trust he has until that point in the donor community. He will unable to raise the money necessary to help our candidates compete in 2008. Maybe his plan includes beer bottle deposits.

JUST SIMPLY NOT TRUE. I HAVE ALWAYS WORKED WITH A LARGE FINANCE NETWORK IN OUR STATE AND HAVE REPEATEDLY EXCEEDED OUR FUNDRAISING GOALS. ADDITIONALLY, OUR BUDGET CHAIRMAN IS AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN OUR BUDGET DECISIONS AND OUR BUDGET NUMBERS ARE SHARED WITH ELECTED MEMBERS OF THE STATE COMMITTEE, (BUT NOT WITH ZANDSTRA WHO IS NOT ELECTED BY THE ACTIVISTS OF HIS DISTRICT)

3) The McCain campaign pulled out of Michigan because they did not believe they could win the state. It was not a secret that they were unable to work with the Michigan Republican Party and that is one reason why Michigan did not end up a targeted state. Simply put, Saul Anuzis is not able to bring people together and turned the MIGOP into an internal war-zone and probably the most dysfunctional and factionalized party organization in the country.

THE MCCAIN CAMPAIGN PULLED OUT BECAUSE THEY DID NOT FEEL THEY COULD WIN, NOT BECAUSE OF LACK OF COOPERATION BY THE MRP. A DECISION I WOULD HAVE RESPECTED HAD IT BEEN EXECUTED QUIETLY IN A MANNER THAT DID NOT DISRUPT OUR STATE EFFORTS DOWN THE BALLOT. I ENJOYED A GREAT RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MCCAIN STATE DIRECTOR, MCCAIN'S REGIONAL DIRECTOR AND ATTORNEY GENERAL MIKE COX AND CONGRESSMAN FRED UPTON – TWO OF THE CO-CHAIRS OF MICHIGAN'S MCCAIN EFFORT.

4) Although it is accurate that Saul has been a leader on using blogging technology to increase communication with grassroots Republicans, many of us in the state view his activity as self-promotion rather than helping candidates. There are numerous instances of Republican officeholders who have been upset with Anuzis releasing information without their approval.

I HAVE USED TECHNOLOGY TO PROMOTE EVERY GOP CANDIDATE AND THE OVERALL GOP EFFORT. I AM NOT AWARE OF RELEASING INFORMATION THAT WAS NOT APPROVED AND HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HE IS REFERRING TO.

5) When he became Chairman, he hired several staffers of Sterling Corporation including Vice President Jeff Timmer as Executive Director. As many as six former Sterling staffers have worked at the MIGOP. He quickly moved almost all of the MIGOP business to Sterling Corporation. He took sides in contested primaries in races that involved Sterling Corporation. There have been allegations that he receives financial compensation from Sterling Corporation but I have not yet seen direct evidence of this. His race for RNC Chairman is now run by Katie Packer, who formerly worked for Sterling Corporation.

I HAVE NO FINANCIAL INTEREST IN STERLING, NEVER HAVE. I HAVE NEVER RECEIVED A DIME FROM STERLING. 2 OF OVER 100 STAFF THAT I HAVE EMPLOYED OVER THE LAST 4 YEARS ARE FORMER STERLING EMPLOYEES. BOTH ARE CREDENTIALED, ABLE POLITICAL STAFF WITH YEARS OF CAMPAIGNS UNDER THEIR BELTS. I MAKE NO APOLOGIES FOR UTILIZING THE TALENTS OF SKILLED, QUALIFIED INDIVIDUALS. STERLING IS JUST ONE OF THE MANY VENDORS THAT THE MRP HAS EMPLOYED DURING MY TENURE AND I ENJOY GOOD FRIENDSHIPS AND BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS WITH MANY VENDORS BOTH IN AND OUTSIDE OF MICHIGAN. KATIE IS ONE OF MANY VOLUNTEERS HELPING MY RNC CAMPAIGN AND IS A FRIEND OF OVER 20 YEARS. I HAVE NO PAID CONSULTANTS ON MY CAMPAIGN AND AM BEHOLDEN TO NO CONSULTANT OR TEAM OF CONSULTANTS SHOULD I WIN.

6) He took a salary of $175,000 per year from the MIGOP. This is one of the reason that donors cut off party support several months ago.

SIMPLY NOT TRUE. MY SALARY IS NOT THAT HIGH. OUR BYLAWS SET A RANGE OF ALLOWABLE SALARY – NO LOWER THAN THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE ($105K) AND NO HIGHER THAN THE GOVERNOR ($177K). MY SALARY WAS SET BY A VOTE OF THE STATE COMMITTEE – NOT BY ME.

If want a RNC Chairman who mocks grassroots activism, loses every race, gives himself a dramatic pay raise, moves all the business to one consulting firm that he has extremely close ties to, and focuses more on his own ambition than winning elections for Republicans, then Saul Anuzis should be your candidate.

If you care what is best for the Republican National Committee, I strongly urge you to consider ANY other candidate. If you have questions, please do not hesitate to call my cell at XXX.XXX.XXXX.

Sincerely,

Dr. Jerry Zandstra
President, Pro-life Federation
Brownback for President National Steering Committee Member
2006 GOP Candidate for US Senate


Filed under: RNC
soundoff (55 Responses)
  1. JLH

    @Unclem.....truer words have NEVER been spoken about the Republican Party! I gotta use that one!

    December 4, 2008 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. 228ro

    Shucks

    It was a joke..... Of course my post is absurd. Just like Republican Ideology.

    December 4, 2008 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  3. Nature

    It is human nature, imperfect and sinful, just wait and see the Democrats fighting for personal ambition in the near future, power corrupts. History is our witness. Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama are no role models, saints, or even supermen, for the rest of the world, when it comes to ego, morality, purity and... addiction to nicotine.

    December 4, 2008 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  4. Pat F

    The people on this blog are hilarious – either that, or they are eleven year olds!

    You think one election ends a party? A party that got millions and millions of votes with the worst run campaign and the weakest candidates imaginable? You're living in a dream world.

    December 4, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. Pat F

    Shucks is just proselytizing for his own pathetic brand of atheism. Jesus loves you all the same, Shucks, even though we all think you're a boring nutter.

    December 4, 2008 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
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