My political involvement began, essentially in 1967, with the election of my father-in-law to be, Anthony (Tony) Licata, to the Michigan House of Representatives from Northwest Detroit. As a result of that Special Election, the Michigan House went Republican. It was a tough campaign with the opposition party putting up a named candidate, James Hoffa, Jr., but with the help of many throughout the State, including my bride to be, Susan Licata, Tony Licata won that Special Election and became Number 56 in the Michigan House (there being 110 seats in the House of Representatives).

For many years there was a Michigan statute that said in counties of more than 1.5 million people, there could not be a County Committee. Of the 83 counties in Michigan, 82 of those counties had county committees, but the largest county—Wayne County—did not as a result of that statute, since more than 1.5 million people lived in Wayne County.

At that time, during the 1980’s and 1990’s, there were 7 either partial or complete Congressional Districts in Wayne County, and Susan and I knew most of the leadership in each Congressional District. During the 1980’s we would ask people if they thought a County Committee for Wayne County would be a good idea—without specifying what that County Committee would look like. Everyone we spoke to said they thought it was a great idea, but felt it would never come to pass. We also discussed this idea extensively with a person from Oakland County, Dennis Flessland, who became the Chair of the 17th Congressional District in 1988. Dennis also believed this was a good idea, but felt it would be awkward for him to pursue since he was from Oakland County. So it was agreed that Susan and I would attempt to put the pieces together as we lived in Detroit.

Meanwhile, after the 1988 Presidential election, a lawsuit had been brought by some Republicans, suggesting that certain procedures had not been followed in the Republican Convention process according to the Michigan Statutes. This case found its way into the Federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati in the case of Heitmanis v. Austin, which held that the Michigan statute governing political parties was unconstitutional, and that the political parties themselves were to set their own rules. As a result, the Republican State Committee made Rules, which were very similar to the statutory scheme, except that a number of us prevailed on the State Committee members not to include any language which prohibited counties of more than 1.5 million to have county committees.

This now opened the door for a county committee to be formed in Wayne County. But the county committee to be formed in Wayne County could not be the same as the other 82 Counties in the State of Michigan. And the reason was a very practical one—for several decades previously the Congressional Districts were essentially governing themselves in Wayne County and no District wanted to cede too much control to a Wayne County Committee. The primary object of having a County Committee being that since no one Congressional District could speak for all of Wayne County, a County Committee made up of all the Congressional Districts could.

There were some who felt the Republican State Committee should put this new Wayne County Republican Committee together, but Susan and I felt that if a successful County Committee was going to be put together, then the 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts had to do it for ourselves and all of those who were brought together to discuss same (Ad Hoc Group) agreed with that thinking.

In 1991, a month or so after John Engler had just won the Governor’s office, Susan and I invited about 20 people from the then 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts to my then law office to discuss the matter. (Interestingly, Wayne County gave John Engler more votes in 1990 than any other county in Michigan.) I had previously discussed with Governor Engler’s office whether the county committee idea was something he could support. In addition, Dave Doyle, who was then the Chair of the Republican State Committee, was contacted, and they both felt a county committee in Wayne County, regardless of how it was structured, would be positive for the Republican Party in Wayne County and the entire State of Michigan.

At the 1st meeting of the Ad Hoc Group the State Party Chair, Dave Doyle, was present and also a staff member from the State Committee named Jamie Roe.

What became very clear from the beginning, (and I emphasized this point in discussing the structure of a county committee with the people invited even before our 1st meeting) was that certain aspects of political involvement were not to be a part of what the county committee did, but instead would be left to the Congressional Districts to do, exclusively, namely:

(C)Determine the number of Precinct Delegates per Precinct from a Congressional District.

As the details of the rules that would govern the Wayne County Republican Committee began to be examined through the proposed By-Laws of the Wayne County Republican Committee, there were, on at least 3 occasions, situations where the group reached an impasse. The members on the Ad Hoc Group had different points of view, but in each instance when it looked like no resolution could be put forth, Jamie Roe, (the staff member from State Party) came up with a third alternative. And in each instance, to my delight, everyone nodded their heads in agreement. Jamie’s help was invaluable.

One issue that all members of this Ad Hoc Group thought about was how many members from each of the 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts would be represented on the proposed Wayne County Republican Committee. Some felt the number of people in each of the 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts should govern the number of members on the County Committee, while others felt the number of Republican votes from each of the 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts for President, or Secretary of State, or Governor, should control the number of members from each district or partial district, while others, still, felt the number of members on the County Committee should simply be the same from each of the 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts. At that time the strongest Republican votes came from Western Wayne County. When this issue came up, Dan Piercecchi, who was from Western Wayne County, knew the sensitivity of the issue and clearly indicated that the only viable way for the proposed new County Committee to work was for each of the 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts to have equal representation on the new County Committee. (It was clear that Dan and the others from Western Wayne, including but not limited to Thaddeus McCotter, Art Sippola, and Harry Greenleaf knew that to be successful, the equal representation route was the best way to go.) Dan Piercecchi was later elected the first 1st Vice Chair of the Wayne County Republican Committee—I was proud to have him there.

We held meetings every 3-4 weeks until we had a set of By-Laws that everyone on the Ad Hoc Group could agree on. On July 9, 1991, those members of the Ad Hoc Group who were present, signed the proposed By-Laws, and these By-Laws were to be presented to each of the 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts for ratification within 90 days. All 7 partial or complete Congressional Districts did ratify the By-Laws, and on November 12, 1991 , the First meeting of the newly created Wayne County Republican Committee met and I was honored to be nominated by Rhys Lewis, then elected as the Founding Chair. Dan Piercecchi was elected 1st Vice Chair, Delanor Smith was elected 2nd Vice Chair, Susan Chmielewski elected Secretary, and Donnelly Hadden was elected Treasurer.

The founding members of the Wayne County Republican Committee included the following people from the Congressional Districts designated in 1991 and thanks is due to each of them:

Edward L. Haroutunian—17th District

Thomas Thompson—15th District

Keith A. Butler—14th District

Sheila Brooks—16th District

John W. Gordon—1st District

Delanor Smith—1st District

Donnelly Hadden—13th District

Arthur Sippola—2nd District

Rhys Lewis—17th District

Susan Licata Haroutunian—17th District

Thaddeus McCotter—2nd District

Frank Beaumont—16th District

Harry Greenleaf—2nd District

Kenneth C. McNealy—14th District

Gerald L. Cox—15th District

C. Daniel Piercecchi—2nd District

Lee H. Clark-16th District

Anthony C. Licata—2nd District      

Cheryl Costantino—14th District

Denzil L. Hammond—17th District

Special thanks is due to two people who agreed to specifically help with the finances and fundraising for the Wayne County Republican Committee, namely Frank Stella and Chuck Yob. They added great stability to the fledgling Wayne County Republican Committee.

The Chairs of the Wayne County Republican Committee from 1991 to the present (2023) were:

Ed Haroutunian

Thaddeus McCotter

Margaret Van Houten

Krista Licata Haroutunian

Susan Chmielewski

William Runco

Symantha Heath

Dillon Breen

Cheryl Costantino

Ann Clark

And the rest, as they say, is history! ! !