NPR logo Edward Haroutunian: Detroit Republican

Edward Haroutunian: Detroit Republican

Sarah Hulett

Delegate: Edward Haroutunian, 64

Hometown: Detroit

Occupation: Lawyer

Why We're Watching: As a Republican living in Detroit, Haroutunian is an anomaly.

"Detroit Republican" might sound like a contradiction in terms. But Ed Haroutunian's introduction to politics would give hope to any urbanite from the Grand Old Party.

In 1967, the Democrat who represented northwest Detroit died before his term was up. Haroutunian's future father-in-law ran as a Republican in the special election to fill the seat, and won. In the process, he defeated the son and namesake of Teamsters legend Jimmy Hoffa and tipped the balance of power in the state House from Democrat to Republican.

The victory turned out to be short-lived: A Democrat won the seat in 1968, and it's stayed that way ever since. Haroutunian says that's unfortunate.

"There are many people in the city of Detroit who have the same philosophical direction as the Republican Party," he says, "but the Democrats have done a pretty good job of making sure that the word Republican is a dirty word."

"I believe that regardless of where people are on the political spectrum, today it ought to be country first, and I think that is the major theme that ought to come out of the Republican National Convention," says Haroutunian.

Haroutunian will be traveling to the RNC the same week Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces the prospect of removal for misconduct by the state's governor.

Haroutunian supported Kilpatrick during his first mayoral campaign. He says it's disappointing to watch the fall of a once-promising politician.

"I think this turmoil in the city will ultimately result in people thinking for themselves more, and that is a positive thing," says Haroutunian. "I think you are watching an evolution of politics within the city of Detroit. Does that mean Republican politics? I don't know. But it's meaningful for people to think for themselves."

Sarah Hulett reports from Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor, Mich.