During the post-war period in Michigan politics, the state Democratic Party experienced a renaissance in voter acceptability. Roughly corresponding to the six term administration of Governor G. Mennen Williams (1949-1961) and in. part attributable to his extraordinary popularity, the Democratic Party underwent an about face and became a model of sorts for other state party organizations.
The successful architect of the party's victorious campaigns in this period was Ann Arbor businessman - politician Neil Staebler. As chairman of the Democratic state central committee, Staebler together with a group of dedicated and energetic aides spear-headed the party's transformation. Staebler believed that for the party to be successful it had first to formulate and espouse a liberal program geared in part to the state's large work force. Secondly, Staebler argued that for the party to succeed at the polls it needed to organize strong precinct level organizations capable of eliciting grass-roots support for the party's program and turning out the vote on election day. With this formula, Staebler helped the Democratic Party to capture the governor's office for seven straight terms and to elect Democratic senators, Patrick McNamara and Philip A. Hart.
With two major exceptions, Staebler shunned elective office. These two campaigns, however, account for some of the more interesting portions of the collection. In 1962, Staebler was elected congressman-at-large, an office which was something of an anomaly because the state's two political parties had been unable to incorporate the additional Congressional seat which Michigan received as a result of the 1960 census without fighting over the necessary redistricting. In 1963 or 1964 Staebler made the decision to become a one-term Congressman, seeking instead to run for governor against the incumbent George Romney. From all outward appearance, Staebler had a better than even chance of victory. The national ticket of Johnson and Humphrey appeared destined for a landslide victory, and Staebler could not help but benefit from their coattails. Unfortunately for the candidate, his opponent George Romney, was a strong campaigner and a popular governor, and he won reelection easily. Following his defeat, Staebler returned to the routines of party work. He continued to be a member of the Democratic National Committee; he was a member of the Democratic National Finance Council, and the National Democratic Charter Commission; and he was appointed to the Federal Election Commission in the 1970s.
From the guide to the Neil Staebler papers, 1944-1992, (Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)