The Ted Cruz campaign has quietly removed Saul Anuzis from his role as Michigan campaign chairman after he reportedly clashed with tea party types who are playing a leading role in the senator’s Great Lakes State effort.
Anuzis, former chairman of the Michigan Republican Party, took a new position as of Saturday at the Cruz national headquarters in Houston. He was among the first high-profile Michigan Republicans to endorse the Texas senator’s White House bid in December 2014.
The new state chairman of the campaign is state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township, a hardcore tea party conservative, who has held the title of co-chair for a few months.
According to one source, the shakeup occurred as Anuzis clashed with the “kooks” in the campaign’s inner circle who have focused largely on gaining the support of Michigan tea party activists and evangelicals. That approach is led by state campaign director, Wendy Day of Howell, another far-right Republican, who lost an election for state House in 2014.
Anuzis said the job change was an amicable agreement, a story without any “conspiracy angle” to it.
In the first Michigan poll taken between the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary, Cruz trailed frontrunner Donald Trump by 14 points.
Anuzis has battled with a segment of the state’s tea partiers since they led his defeat for re-election to the Republican National Committee in 2011, losing to the highly controversial former state representative Dave Agema.
“There’s noting much to this,” he said. “This has nothing to do with the tea party or with personalities.”
Anuzis’ new campaign job as senior adviser is a paid post at the headquarters in Texas, which would generally be considered a promotion. Cruz showed a special affinity for Anuzis last September when he dispatched him, along with his father, Rafael, to nail down support in the U.S. Virgin Islands. That trip was part of an unusual Cruz strategy to win the primaries in all of the U.S. territories.
In Michigan, some political observers believe Cruz has assembled the best ground game of any GOP candidate, with more than 4,000 people signed up as volunteers, key supporters in all 83 counties, and four field offices in Roseville, Sault Ste. Marie, Grand Rapids and Brighton.
Anuzis, who twice made a fleeting bid for Republican national chairman in 2009 and 2011, has asserted that Cruz would appeal to the former Reagan Democrats in Macomb County and blue-collar workers along the I-75 corridor, from Genesee County to Monroe.