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Tags: conservative | reagan | ford | goldwater | romney

Remembering Norm Hughes: Not Driven By Money Or Fame, But By the Conservative Cause

Remembering Norm Hughes: Not Driven By Money Or Fame, But By the Conservative Cause
Norman Hughes in 2018 receving an award from Jerome Allen at the Michigan Conservative Union. (MCU.today)

John Gizzi By Sunday, 20 October 2019 07:55 AM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Had Norm Hughes of Metamora, Michigan focused on his training as an architectural engineer, he might easily have become a multimillionaire.  But it was his avocation—conservative politics — rather than his occupation that drove Hughes.

When Hughes died on October 3 at age 76, that was the most-oft remembrance of the man who helped build the Michigan Conservative Union and was one of the few prominent Republicans from the Wolverine State to back Ronald Reagan for President over favorite son Gerald Ford.

Born in Detroit, Hughes graduated from the Lawrence Technological University.  He served as class president for three years and student government president in his senior year.  Following studies at the University of  Michigan Graduate School of Engineering, Hughes launched his own design and construction management company.   Over the next thirty years, he would win several awards in the design and building industries.

Like many twentysomethings of his generation, the young Hughes caught the political “bug” in 1964 when Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz.., ran for President.  Moved by Goldwater’s book “The Conscience of a Conservative” and its emphasis on smaller government and greater freedom, Hughes was a vigorous volunteer for his early hero.

Firmly believing that Goldwater’s landslide defeat was not an end but a beginning for conservatism, Hughes threw himself into the fight for of the Michigan Republican Party against liberal GOP Gov. George Romney and his fellow liberal Republican successor, Gov. William Milliken.

The efforts of the Michigan conservatives reached a zenith in 1970, when swashbuckling conservative State Sen. Robert Huber of Troy competed against Lenore Romney for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination.  Lenore was the wife of George Romney. One headline blared, “George won’t run, he’ll let Lenore do it.”

With Hughes helping to manage Huber’s campaign, conservative volunteers were motivated throughout the state.  The primary turned into a nail-biter, with Lenore Romney eking out a win over Huber by 52 to 48 percent.  (With son Mitt as her campaign manager, Lenore barely managed 30 percent of the vote against Democratic Sen. Phil Hart).

Hughes, Huber and other conservatives briefly tried to follow the example of their New York counterparts and put a third party on the ballot.  The Michigan Conservative Party chaired by Hughes lasted less than two years.  When a new district in the Troy area was created following the 1971 census, Huber was elected — again, with Hughes at the helm of his campaign.

With fellow conservative stalwarts such as educator Harry Veryser and State Sens. Jack Welborn and Kirby Holmes, Hughes would help forge the Michigan Conservative Union (MCU).  For nearly four decades, it has provided an annual conference and rating of state legislators on how conservative they are.

In 1976, Hughes served as executive director of the Reagan-for-President campaign in the Michigan primary.  Although the Californian barely managed 36 percent of the vote against President Gerald Ford, it was enough to send a handful of delegates to the national convention that barely nominated Ford.

Hughes made two runs for Congress, in 1978 and ’80, against Democratic Rep. Bob Traxler.  But even with campaign appearances from Reagan himself, he fell short both times.

Following a brief stint at the U.S. Department of Energy under President Reagan, Hughes returned to Michigan and to his first love: politics.  Over the next three decades, he would help organize the MCU’s annual conclave, and work on conservative causes such as Right-to-Work—finally becoming law in Michigan as “Freedom to Work” in March of 2013.

Norm Hughes never held office and was not a well-known figure in the modern conservative movement.  But his tireless organizing, his refusal to bow to the non-conservative trends of his state’s Republican Party, and his tenacity motivated many into politics—and moved the Michigan GOP to the right. 

These things he did not to get anything such as money or a position out of politics but because he fervently believed in what he was doing.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Had Norm Hughes of Metamora, Michigan focused on his training as an architectural engineer, he might easily have become a multimillionaire. But it was his avocation-conservative politics-rather than his occupation that drove Hughes....
conservative, reagan, ford, goldwater, romney
Sunday, 20 October 2019 07:55 AM
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