LANSING (AP) — The jockeying to replace Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Betsy DeVos has begun.

Former state Rep. Andrew “Rocky” Raczkowski, who ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Carl Levin in 2002 and served in the Michigan House from 1997 to 2002, told The Associated Press yesterday that he wants the job.

“I was an elected official, I was active with the state party at the grass roots, I understand fund-raising … party organization and planning,” he said, listing why he would be a good choice for GOP chairman.

The 35-year-old Raczkowski, a U.S. Army Reserves major from Farmington Hills, recently returned from a year in Africa and elsewhere with Operation Enduring Freedom.

Also considering a run is Myrah Kirkwood, a security manager for McDonald’s Corp. who ran unsuccessfully this year against U.S. Rep. Dale Kildee of Flint as one of the few black Republican candidates in Michigan. A former Detroit police officer, Kirkwood said yesterday that she has the organizational skills to manage the party.

“I certainly am used to challenging situations,” she said. “I think I have the best credentials to make the jump to state party chair.”

Others mentioned as possible replacements for DeVos are Oakland County GOP Chairman Paul Welday; former Detroit TV anchor Tara Wall, who now works for the Republican National Committee; former House Speaker Chuck Perricone of Delton; and Domino’s Pizza Inc. Chairman and CEO David Brandon of Ann Arbor, a regent at the University

Party activists want someone who can help them unseat Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2006 and stave off a Democratic charge to regain majorities in the state Senate and House. Whoever is picked must be able to recruit strong challengers and raise enough money to help buy ads and set up large-scale voter outreach efforts.

“It’s a very fluid situation now as far as party chair goes,” said Tom Shields, whose Lansing company, Marketing Resource Group, has done work for the state GOP. “No one’s really gravitating toward one candidate.”

The race could firm up fairly quickly, however, even though about 400 Republican delegates won’t meet to elect a new leader until their Feb. 4 and 5 state convention in Grand Rapids.

GOP National Committeeman Chuck Yob said he plans to endorse a favorite by early next week.

“Rocky seems to be the only one running right now, really,” Yob said. “I think if someone doesn’t surface soon, he’s going to have it locked up. … I’m still doing some ground work on which way’s the best way to go.”

Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who along with Attorney General Mike Cox shares the spotlight as the GOP’s top state officeholder said party activists have a few more steps to take before making a decision.

“We need to define what we’re looking for in a party chair,” she said, noting that Republicans usually choose either a successful fund-raiser who delegates to an executive director, as DeVos did, or a paid leader more along the lines of former chairmen Rusty Hills, Dave Doyle or Spencer Abraham.


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