Thursday, December 4, 2014

Who Will Be The Next Ottawa GOP Chair?

Photo of Amanda VanEssen by Darlene Dowling Thompson

By Brandon Hall
(Email him at

Tonight's Ottawa County GOP Executive Committee meeting will decide who takes over as Chair of the fractured party, with current Chair Adam Tountas departing after two terms. The Chair will have a huge role in choosing the party's next Executive Director, and the direction of the party during the 2016 cycle.

Two candidates are running to replace Tountas. The first is current Vice-Chair Amanda VanEssen, a local attorney. The other is Brad Slagh, the elected Ottawa County Treasurer and a former Ottawa GOP Chair and Zeeland Township Supervisor.

Slagh finds himself  being the "grassroots" candidate, an interesting position for someone considered "establishment" years ago. Slagh has reached out heavily to precinct delegates, is a supporter of deposed Executive Director Faith Steketee, and even beat Adam Tountas last month in a bid to be Chair of the Ottawa County Convention.

VanEssen lost a heartbreaking State House primary race in 2012 to Roger Victory, losing by only 89 votes, 5,973 to Victory's 6,062.

She is an impressive politician, surviving "ConventionGate" pretty much unscathed. She is likely to be a top candidate for Ottawa County Prosecutor, or another office when the time is right.

There is no question Slagh has support, but it will be immensely difficult to beat VanEssen, who is backed by Rep. Huizenga, Sen. Meekhof, et al. By law, elected officials make up half of the 40 member Executive Committee, and many are loyal to "The Empire."

They say that they want unity-but tonight, we'll put that word to the test. If VanEssen wins the Chair race, will a grassroots Vice-Chair emerge to show that "unity" talk is more than just rhetoric?

Dustin Attema scored a victory for the grassroots after Arlan Meekhof tried to stop such a thing from happening, perhaps he could be a Vice-Chair? Perhaps Slagh? 

The Secretary and Treasurer spots will also be filled. Stay tuned...

Brandon Hall is a lifelong political nerd from Grand Haven, and is the Managing Editor of West Michigan Politics.
Email him at
Photo By Darlene Dowling Thompson

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