Joanne Voorhees unilaterally cancels Huntsman speech
by Reid Wilson
Utah Gov. John Huntsman (R), seen by many as a potential top-tier presidential candidate in 2012, has been uninvited from a local Michigan Republican club after announcing his support for civil unions between gay couples.
Huntsman is touring Michigan this week and stopping at several county party events as he slowly raises his national profile. But the Kent County Republican Party this week canceled Huntsman’s appearance, with the county party chairwoman saying his appearance would amount to an abandonment of party principles.
Joanne Voorhees, chairwoman of the party in the Grand Rapids-based county, emailed party members to announce the cancellation of the Saturday fundraiser.
“The voters want and expect us to stand on principle and return to our roots,” Voorhees wrote in an email. “Unfortunately, by holding an event with Gov. Huntsman, we would be doing the exact opposite.”
The move won praise from the Campaign for Michigan Families, one of the main groups behind Michigan’s 2004 passage of a ban on same-sex marriages. Campaign chairman Gary Glenn called on Kalamazoo and Oakland County Republican Parties to cancel their own planned events with the two-term Utah governor.
In place of the canceled Kent County fundraiser, Huntsman will be hosted by Dick DeVos, the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2006 and a major Republican fundraiser in the state, and wife Betsy DeVos for a fundraiser in Grand Rapids that benefits the state party.
Huntsman will also stop by the Muskegon County GOP.
Huntsman won praise in February from the Human Rights Campaign, one of the leading gay rights organizations in the country, when he announced he would back civil unions as contractual agreements between what he called non-traditional couples.
Huntsman has emerged as a leading voice urging national Republicans to moderate their positions and has signaled that, were he to run for president, he would do so as a centrist with business credentials. He has said that he doesn’t plan to run for president, though he has well-known consultants guiding him as he visits several states crucial to winning the GOP primary.
Earlier this year, Huntsman visited several state party events in South Carolina, site of the first-in-the-South primary. He has also stopped in North Carolina and will give a speech at a conference later this week in Chicago.
In South Carolina, Huntsman met a number of party chairmen and activists with Attorney General Henry McMaster (R) at his side. In Michigan, political consultant John Yob has been setting up meetings for Huntsman around the state.