Houghton anti-gay Tea Party member concedes RNC seat to a Romney

A political rant on the Schoolcraft County GOP website didn’t help Houghton resident Mary Helen Sears’ bid for an RNC committee seat. Instead, the membership position will be filled by Ronna Romney McDaniel, the niece of former presidential candidate Mitt Romney. This morning, McDaniel was declared Michigan’s newest Republican National Committeewoman.

The two other nominees were Sandra Kahn of Saginaw County and Mary Helen Sears, a Houghton County resident. Both were present when the vote took place. There was a motion to pronounce Ronna McDaniel as the unanimous winner to which there was one dissenting vote.  A final a motion to pronounce Ronna the winner by acclamation passed.

National press uncovered a political rant on the Schoolcraft County GOP website about Sears’ evangelical views on conservative politics. Sears argued that “Satan uses homosexuality to attack the living space of the Holy Spirit” and suggested that homosexuals recruit by preying on children. She used words like “perversion” and referred to college professors as communists indoctrinating young naive students in public schools.

Mary Helen Sears said that Darwinism “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia.”

Was it a gaffe? Did she misspeak? The Huffington post not only called her “crazy”, one commentator suggested all Michiganders were crazy. Her blog post was written over a year ago. It seems her intent was to offer a solemn opinion regarding where the Republican Party was headed, express her concern for public school systems, and advocate for the sanctity of marriage. Amongst an anti-gay, far-right political undertone, her message was lost. “The media seemed to have picked out pieces of an article I wrote over a year ago, in response to issues in our district party. They don’t know me but they like to assume they do,” said Sears. She said no member of the media (other than ABC 10) asked her about the blog post.

Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to elaborate further, but Sears recently posted an updated version of her political views to her Facebook page.

The Public Opinion on Michigan Gay Marriage 2003 – 2014

  • Sexual acts between persons of the same sex are legal in Michigan. They had been criminalized until the state’s sodomy laws, which were invalidated in 2003 by the United States Supreme Court.

  • 2004 – EPIC-MRA poll found that 61% of Michigan voters supported a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, while 34% oppose it. When asked about what institutions of commitment same-sex couples should be allowed to enter, 17% said same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, 43% said they should not be allowed to marry but should be able to form civil unions, and 36% opposed both same-sex marriage and civil unions.

  • A October 2004 Glengariff Group poll showed 24% of Michiganders supported marriage rights for same-sex partners, and only 42% supported legal recognition of civil unions.

  • A June 2009 Glengariff Group poll showed a substantial shift in opinions towards the legal recognition of same-sex unions in Michigan, with 63.7% of residents supporting civil unions for same-sex couples and 46.5% of residents supporting full marriage rights for same-sex couples.

  • A July 2011 Public Policy Polling survey found that 33% of Michigan voters thought that same-sex marriage should be legal, while 53% thought it should be illegal and 14% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 62% of Michigan voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 29% supporting same-sex marriage, 33% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 35% favoring no legal recognition and 3% not sure.

  • Nearly a year later, in May 2012, a Public Policy Polling survey found that 41% of Michigan voters thought that same sex marriage should be legal, while 45% thought it should be illegal and 14% were not sure. A separate question on the same survey found that 70% of Michigan voters supported the legal recognition of same-sex couples, with 39% supporting same-sex marriage, 31% supporting civil unions but not marriage, 27% favoring no legal recognition and 3% not sure.

  • A November 2012 Michigan State University poll found support for gay marriage in Michigan had increased significantly. The survey found that 56% of the state’s residents supported gay marriage while 39% opposed it.

  • A 2013 Glengariff Group poll found that 57% of Michigan residents support same-sex marriage while 38% oppose.

  • 2013 is known as the ‘gayest’ year ever!

During the time of Sears’ anti-gay comments, many states welcomed a huge string of victories for LGBT rights. From state legislatures, to Congress, to the Supreme Court. Sears discusses the trend of conservatives becoming more lenient on gay marriage, and expressed the urge to battle this progressive moment. Her political value system is better aligned with the Tea Party, but Sears actively participates in the Republican Party.

This morning, with the selection of Ronna Romney McDaniel, Michigan’s GOP may become a party to watch. So far, however, for pure dramatic entertainment. Even without Sears, internally there are still many unpredictable variables within the party.

The committee membership opened up after Terri Lynn Land resigned from the seat on January 31st. Land stepped down from the RNC to campaign for the U.S. Senate seat soon to be vacated by Democrat Carl Levin. Her resignation comes quickly after a January 23rd complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission about Land’s campaign financing. She is neck and neck in the poles with Democratic Rep. Gary Peters. Terri Lynn Land is the former Secretary of State for Michigan, and recently she’s been surrounded in good-old-fashioned conservative banter.

In an effort to avoid similar controversy, Land has distanced herself from RNC member Dave Agema. Agema is a former state lawmaker in hot water with Michigan Republican leaders for anti-gay / anti-Muslim comments on social media. Leaders in Michigan like governor Rick Synder condemned Agema’s comments. Other lawmakers asked him to step down from the RNC. Reince Priebus, and Michigan Republican Party member Bobby Schostak issued a joint statement asking Agema to resign, stating it would be best “for the good of the party.” Instead, Terri Lynn Land’s membership seat with the RNC opened up.

Mary Helen Sears and Dave Agema
Mary Helen Sears and Dave Agema

Agema is still on the political stage, and has not considered resignation.

This tweet by Michigan-based public affairs consultant, Dennis Lennox,  captures Agema and Randy Bishop, a two-time felon, tea party activist, and Antrim County Republican Party chairman. Agema allegedly “swore” at Lennox in the bathroom; Randy Bishop giving the camera the bird.


Enter Michigan Ronna Romney McDaniel. McDaniel is the niece of Michigan-native and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. She was chosen this morning to fill the open membership position. The Republican party is splitting apart, a point Mary Helen Sears was actually trying to make in her blog post, a point all but lost shrouded in anti-gay sentiment and massive media coverage. In Ronna Romney McDaniel’s acceptance speech she advocated bringing the Republican party together to defeat Democrats this season.

Can McDaniel unite the party over such contentious issues? The climb to Capitol Hill for Michigan GOP candidates may be steeper than ever before.

It’s quite the cast of characters, and just like the temperature – election season is heating up!

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