Though he said it can be tough to be a Republican at the University of Michigan, LSA sophomore Brady Smith, the new chair of the University's chapter of College Republicans at the University, likes the challenge.
Just because Democrats outnumber Republicans on campus doesn't mean they can't get along and have a "thoughtful, comprehensive exchange of ideas," Smith said.
"I have my ideas challenged here on a daily basis," Smith said. "I believe that the best way to respect ideas is to challenge them."
Smith was elected to chair the University's chapter of the College Republicans earlier this month. His main goal as chair, he said, is to unite the "bashful" and "scattered voices" of Republicans on campus.
Smith called the University a "bastion of liberalism" in need of conservative voices.
He said the College Republicans could fill that void.
"One thing I'm really looking forward to doing is creating a vibrant, firm and thoughtful voice for the Republican Party on campus," Smith said.
One of his sparring partners, LSA sophomore Tom Duvall, chair of the University's chapter of Students for Obama and a high school friend of Smith's, said Smith will make that happen.
"He'll make sure it's a positive campaign," Duvall said. "Knowing Brady, he'll really help to bring respect to this campaign season and the discourse will be elevated on this campus."
With a laugh, Duvall added, "I definitely respect him as a worthy opponent."
Despite what he called "a bit of an ugly primary fight" with a "few black eyes" between John McCain and Mitt Romney, Smith said he thought students who supported Romney or one of the other candidates vying for the Republican nomination will rally around McCain for the presidential election this November.
"I think that John McCain has gotten a bit of a bad rep, but when you look at a comparison of ideas, it'll be very easy to unite the party on campus," he said. "The man is very principled, and the man represents Republican values."
In addition to holding events on campus to distribute information to students, Smith said the group plans to canvass and make phone calls for McCain in the fall. Smith said he also hopes to bring prominent Republicans to campus more often.
Next week, the group will host long-time Republican National Committee member Chuck Yob.
Although he originally supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee during the primary race, Smith called McCain "the right nominee" and a "maverick." Smith said he supported Huckabee because of his views on health care and the environment.
"It's a shame that the left has kind of a monopoly on these two issues of health care and the environment," Smith said. "Especially when the Republican ideas on these issues are more responsible and are better for the health, growth and sustainability of the nation."
Smith criticized the universal health care plans suggested by Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, which he said were too intrusive into people's lives.
Smith beat out two challengers - College of Engineering sophomore Ashley Schneider and Ross School of Business junior Anton Vuljaj - in the first round of voting to win his new position. Vuljaj recently resigned from his position as a Michigan Student Assembly representative after pleading guilty to felony charges related to an incident where he crashed an opposing party's website as a freshman.
Smith, a history major from Midland, Mich., said he first became interested in politics in middle school during the 2000 presidential race between Al Gore and George W. Bush.
"History is the past, but what's cooler tha shaping the country's future?" he said. "That's why I got interested in politics."
© 2008 Michigan Daily via U-WIRE