`Amoeba'-like split by Religious Right haunts Michigan GOP.

A heavily Republican county in Michigan is still reeling from TV preacher Pat Robertson's presidential campaign in 1988, with warring GOP factions battling for control of the party.

Oakland County, just northwest of Detroit, is one of the five most Republican counties in the nation. Yet, according to an account in the conservative newspaper Human Events, local Republicans "are not happy with their party."

The conflict stems from 1988, when, as the paper put it, "Michigan Republicans split like a giant amoeba and sent two delegations to the national party convention (one favoring the elder George Bush, the other for Pat Robertson)...." Religious conservatives, Human Events says, believe that current county GOP chair L. Brooks Patterson is "hostile to their candidates and causes."

In November, the county's GOP leaders met to elect a new executive committee. Religious Right activists stacked the meeting and elected former Michigan Christian Coalition head Tom McMillin as chair over Patterson. McMillin then adopted new rules making it easier for him to appoint fellow social conservatives on the committee.

Members of the Republican old guard were furious over the changes and stormed out of the meeting en masse. They later gathered in a rump caucus and began operating as the county party's true executive committee. McMillin and his supporters filed suit in state court, but a three-judge panel rejected the case.

Patterson attempted to heal the rift by stepping down as party chairman. The executive committee then elected Paul Welday, an aide to U.S. Rep. Joe Kollenberg (R-Mich.) as chair. Welday in turn...

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