THE MICHIGAN DAILY
THURSDAY. 15 APILT.1985 ----- ~,aa*.,
,AETNl MCIA AL
i. alll iL 7"Z% X, 1.J MU IVAL I"MJ
(Continued from Page 1)
occupied the attentions of such
diverse personalities as N e il
Staebler and the head of the po-
litical arm of the Michigan
Why do state Democrats, law-
yers, and state police call the
county "unique" in Michigan?
Why is there a fight for con-
trol of the Democratic party in
Livingston county - a predomin-
antly rural, community of 38,000,
north of Ann Arbor which regu-
larly votes 60 per cent Republi-
Some observers say the dispute
is "purely personalities. Just a
squabble where two men want
something only one can have,"
But the contest has been too
intense for that, others contend.
Politicians point out four bit-
ter issues that have split the
county's Democrats along pro-
Rettinger or pro-Lavan lines:
-Rettinger supporters h a v e
charged Lavan with violence and
intimidation, while Lavan, who
calls the charge "ridiculous," as-
sails the Rettinger group for di-
viding the party;
-Rettinger supporters say a
Lavan-Teamster alliance is in full
force, while Lavan denies any
Teamster has participated in his
group as a Teamster;
-Rettinger supporters have also
blasted local Republicans for
what they feel is pro-Lavan fav-
-Each side has criticized the
other for alleged1 political inef-
fectiveness, and claims its own
group has done more for the
Democratic party within the
s Violence. The Rettinger af-
fidavit in response to the Lavan
lawsuit has charged that Lavan
supporters "have continued to
harass and threaten" Rettinger
supporters with "physical dam-
age and economic harm."
The affidavit points to the riot
which occurred at the county
Democratic convention last Sep-
At that convention, a riot broke
out after the credentials commit-
tee refused to seat most Lavan
delegates elected inka disputed
primary which had taken place on
Composed of Rettinger allies,
the credentials committee said it
would await the outcome of a
legal fight over the election's
validity before seating the Lavan
During the riot, according to
the affidavit, Lavan delegates as-
saulted Rettinger and several of
Lavan, however, points out that
a State Police investigation failed
to find evidence on which to base
a legal case. The county prosecu-
tor then said he could not issue
any warrants of arrest.
Lavan blames the "divisive ac-
tions" of Rettinger supporters at
the meeting for the outburst.
" Teamsters. "Teamster - influ-
enced" is another charge leveled
against Lavan's group.
"We never touched the people
Lavan wanted for party jobs or
candidacies," remarks a long-time
sixth-district Democratic worker.
"We felt they were distinctly tar-
red by the Teamster brush."
Lavan's backers include Henry
Hopkins, a Teamster local union
presdient, and Otto Wendel, chair-
man of the Michigan Teamsters'
"voter education" program.
Lavan has supported Mrs. Hop-
kins for one of the sixth district's
seats on the Democratic state cen-
tral committee, but Ingham coun-
ty Democrats thwarted this move.
Rebutting this criticism, Lavan
has declared, "There's room for
everybody in the Democratic
At the February state Demo-
cratic convention, after the con-
vention's credentials committee
voted 15-2 to seat the Rettinger
delegation, Wendel lobbied in-
tensely for a minority support fav-
oring the Lavan group. Two com-
mittee members, one a Teamster's
wife and the other from the first
district, where Teamster influence
is strong, were ready to sign, but
the attempt was dropped when
the districts themselves remained
solidly for Rettinger.
f Republican favoritism. Ret-
tinger forces have also bitterly
criticized alleged favoritism by
Republican county officials.
The Rettinger ouster of Lavan,
observers note, came after the
1962 primary, when the Lavan
group failed to put up a Demo-
cratic slate of county candidates.
Instead, the Michigan Democratic
party's newsletter noted last Jan-
uary, they worked "for what some
called a slate of 'acceptable Re-
On Jan. 9, 1965, Rettinger adds,
Brian Lavan, the newly-elected
chairman of the Lavan faction,
announced that his group would
be holding its spring convention,
preparatory to the February state
Democratic convention, in the
Rules for the use of the court-
house were not established until
two days later, however. It had
been closed to all non-official
groups pending new rules for its
use after the riot at the county
The Detroit News called this act
the exercise of "an apparent 'in'
with Republican officials."
The Republican - dominated
county board of supervisors, on a
motion by Lavan, then a mem-
ber, rejected the Democratic nom-
inees to the board of election
canvassers in 1963.
They had been submitted by
the Rettinger-led county Demo-
cratic committee whose legality,
at that time, was unquestioned.
bsPolitical Effectiveness. Some
observers feel that although the
Lavan group was active in the
county's affairs, such as Lavan's
appointment to numerous county
commissions, it failed to fulfill
the duties of a political party's
"We wanted the two-party sys-
tem," one Rettinger supporter
says. "You'd think only the Re-
publicans might object to that.
And we think we've succeeded in
The Democratic state central
commiittee, in its Feb. 13 resolu-
tion recognizing the Rettinger-led
committee, commended "the dra-
matic improvement in the growth,
development and responsible po- party," one high state central of-
litical activity" that had occurred ficial declares. Alluding to the
after it took over. Lavan political style, the observer
State Democratic praise for the
Rettinger-led committee's record
has been tempered with private
criticism of Rettinger personally.
"He's a little volatile at times,"I
Some Democrats have also in-
dicated mild exasperation with
the Rettinger group's relative in-
"Of cours'e we're inexperienced,"
answers Ruth Munzel, the Ret-
tinger-led committee's vice-chair-
man and now a member of the
state central committee. "We just
got into hot politics in 1962. But
we have gone a long way in re-'
storing the .'two-party system
Most observers, noting the state
c e n t r a 1 committee resolution,
agree. "They're far and away
superior to anything Lavan ever
came up with," one important
Democrat says flatly.
Others in the statewide Demo-
cratic machinery support this an-
alysis and criticize Lavan's reign
in the county.
Neil Staebler, in his terms as
state chairman, gave up on Lavan
and finally worked through others
in the county, providing the Ret-
tinger forces with support and
encouragement in their success-
ful 1962 ouster of Lavan.
Richard M. Cook, former Demo-
cratic chairman of Ingham coun-
ty, which was previously in the
same district with Livingston
county, adds, "We never really
wanted to do businessnwith Lavan
except to fulfill the statutory re-
He notes that the district com-
mittee never accepted Lavan rec-
ommendations for party posts or
adds, "It's simply old-time Irish
Scoffing at the fund-raising and
organizational activities of Ret-
tinger's group, Lavan counters,
saying, "They're largely insigni-
Ficant. I'm not a believer in bake
"What's important is the elec-
tions in September and November
-and I might add that without
any headquarters of my own,
Lavan beat Vivian."
ThsVivian Loses County
Thsis a reference to Congress-
man Weston E. Vivian (D-Ann
Arbor), who, as a candidate in
the 1964 primary and general
elections, would not associate
himself with Lavan. In both theI
primary and the general elections,
Vivian lost the county to his
A Vivian headquarters in the
county and Mrs. Munzel's selec-
tion for the Vivian campaign
committee are known to have in-
furiated Lavan, a p p a r e n t 1 y
prompting his political opposition
the Democratic party" had occur-
red in the county, and quoted Re-
publican county chairman Char-
les Ward as saying, "Democrats
here have a new militancy."
The struggle for control of the
Democratic party is far from over,
observers here say. Whatever the
outcome of the court case-to be
heard April 26-the fight will start
"The only thing Rettinger can again in the 1966 primary elec-
claim credit for is being a divisive tion, when the county's Demo-
force in the party," the elder crats will pick a new county con-
Lavan concludes. Brian Lavan vention and a new county com-
adds: "The best way to find out ,mittee.
which group is more effective is' TOMORROW: The story of
to ask any of the Republicans the 1964 struggle for the coun-
around." ty committee: a disputed elec-
The Pontiac Press reported last tion, a violent convention, po-
summer after Lavan's ouster that litical infighting, a court case-
"a face-lifting and resurgence of and what lies ahead.
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