Republican Party (Mich.). 14th Congressional District Republican Committee.

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The Republican party organization in Michigan's 14th congressional district has seen continued conflict between Republican party factions for over twenty years. Long controlled by conservatives, it has been used as a base from which they attempted to win moderate districts to the conservative standard. Moderate Republicans, on the other hand, have repeatedly attempted to return the district to what they considered to be the party's ideological mainstream.

In 1956 the Republican Precinct Organization (RPO), a Wayne county group allied with the dominant moderate faction of the state party, faced challenges in a number of places. In the 14th district the RPO was ousted from power by the insurgent Republican Voters Associated (RVA). The RVA's success was tempered, however, by a political deal made just prior to the district convention. Stanley Baldwin, district chairman, received the RVA's support for re-election in return for Baldwin's pledge to remain neutral in all intra-party disputes and his endorsement of RVA leader Richard Durant's candidacy for district vice-chairman. On the strength of this compromise the RVA carried the convention 147-114.

The conservatism of the 14th district's new leadership was emphasized in a circular letter published by the RVA which claimed that moderate Republicanism, as exemplified by President Eisenhower, had "done nothing but make Socialism respectable." Outraged by such criticism, moderates in the district, with the backing of the state party, attempted to oust Durant and his supporters.

In 1958, former gubernatorial candidate and ambassador to Belgium, Fred M. Alger Jr. spearheaded the drive to defeat Durant. Alger had been a key organizer of the RPO a decade earlier. Despite his previous importance in the district and strong outside support, Alger lost to Durant 129-163.

Increasingly, Durant came to dominate the district. His personal conservatism was emphasized in 1960 when he endorsed Barry Goldwater for president. In 1962 he bitterly opposed George Romney's bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Although their dispute was papered over during the campaign, Durant did little to aid Romney. Eventually Romney Republicans organized their own campaign effort in the 14th District, independent of the district apparatus.

Durant's opposition to Romney led to renewed efforts to oust him from control. In 1963, as Durant assumed the district chair from the aging Stanley Baldwin, the state party announced it would no longer contribute funds to the 14th district organization. At the same time Republicans involved in the 14th district's Romney campaign created "Republican's Concerned" (RC) in opposition to Durant.

In 1964 RC nearly defeated Durant. Durant's membership in the John Birch society became the critical issue of the district convention. Realizing he was in serious trouble, Durant resigned his membership in the Birch Society two days before the convention, although he made clear he still shared the organization's ideas. The resignation saved his political career, but the district convention was hard fought, and charges of fraud were made when Durant declared himself re-elected chairman on a voice vote, ignoring the demands of RC supporters for a standing vote.

Heartened by their near success in 1964, RC launched another effort to oust Durant in 1966. Wilber Brucker, long time district chairman under the RPO in the late 1940s, opposed Durant for district chairman. Brucker was endorsed by Governor Romney, the first time Romney publicly attempted to defeat Durant. Despite RC's strong showing in 1964, and the public backing of Romney for their candidate, Durant carried the district convention 158-99. In 1967 and early 1968 Durant repaid Romney, flooding Republican mailboxes nationwide with literature opposing Romney's presidential bid.

From the guide to the Republican Party (Mich.). 14th Congressional District Republican Committee records, 1948-1976, (Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Wohlfield, Shirley. Shirley Wohlfield papers, 1972-1978. University of Michigan, Bentley Historical Library
creatorOf Republican Party (Mich.). 14th Congressional District Republican Committee records, 1948-1976 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Edward N. Hartwick Papers, 1898-1978, 1940-1960 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Shirley Wohlfield Papers, 1972-1988 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Durant, Richard. person
associatedWith Hartwick, Edward N. person
associatedWith John Birch Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Romney, George W., 1907- person
associatedWith Wohlfield, Shirley. person
associatedWith Wohlfield, Shirley. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Women's rights--Michigan

Corporate Body

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