Michigan Republican Party Nominates Conspiracy Theorists With Bizarre Records as Candidates for Secretary of State and Attorney General

Kristina Karamo gets an endorsement from former President Donald Trump during a rally on April 02, 2022. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

By Keya Vakil

April 26, 2022

If elected as secretary of state in November, Kristina Karamo would oversee the very elections she’s spent 18 months lying about. Matt DePerno, meanwhile, has pledged to prosecute “the people who corrupted the 2020 election” if elected as attorney general. 

Need to Know

  • Countless reviews have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election.
  • Kristina Karamo believes premarital cohabitation led to the normalization of pedophilia and bestiality, has a history of homophobic, anti-Semitic, and regressive statements, believes evolution is a “fraud,” compared abortion to human sacrifice, and attended a conference for supporters of the extremist conspiracy theory QAnon.
  • Matt DePerno is facing multiple investigations for his role in casting doubt over the 2020 election results in Antrim County, has been sued repeatedly amid allegations of ethical breaches, and has suggested he believes Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

GRAND RAPIDS—Michigan Republicans endorsed a pair of conspiracy theorists with enough baggage to fill Lake Superior as their candidates for secretary of state and attorney general on Saturday. 

Kristina Karamo, a community college professor who has embraced former President Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen, ran away with 67% of the vote and the secretary of state nomination at Saturday’s Republican party endorsement convention in Grand Rapids. Matthew DePerno, an attorney who challenged the 2020 election results in Antrim County, eked out a victory in the race for attorney general, earning 54% of the vote in a runoff. Both candidates were endorsed by Trump and have made addressing voter fraud—proven time and again to be a red herring for extreme conservatives—a top priority. 

Unlike many states, Michigan doesn’t hold primary elections for either position, and instead, the parties endorse and nominate their candidates at party conventions. More than 2,000 delegates from across the state participated in the Grand Rapids event, and ultimately selected Karamo and DePerno. While they won’t officially become the nominees until another party convention in August, the two are effectively locked in as candidates.  

Karamo and DePerno’s victories underscore just how influential Trump remains, even as the twice-impeached former president pleads for his loyalists to overturn the 2020 election results and return him to office.

“They will go on to big victories for Attorney General and Secretary of State,” Trump said in a statement on Saturday. “I will back them strongly.”

Karamo and DePerno’s wins could spell serious trouble for democracy in Michigan. If Karamo wins in November, she would oversee the very elections she’s spent 18 months lying about for personal gain, while also having control over vehicle registration and the licensing of automobile drivers in Michigan. DePerno, who would become Michigan’s top law enforcement official, has pledged to prosecute “the people who corrupted the 2020 election,” if elected.

A thorough review by the Associated Press found only 56 possible cases of fraud in Michigan, which would have had no impact on Joe Biden’s win in the state. Most of the cases involved two individuals suspected of submitting roughly 50 fraudulent requests for absentee ballots in Macomb, Wayne, and Oakland counties. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation documented only one notable case of voter fraud in Michigan during the 2020 election cycle. 

The Republican-led Oversight Committee in the Michigan state Senate further published a report rejecting Trump’s narrative that the election was fraudulent. 

“Our clear finding is that citizens should be confident the results represent the true results of the ballots cast by the people of Michigan,” wrote state Sen. Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan), the committee chair. “There is no evidence presented at this time to prove either significant acts of fraud or that an organized, wide-scale effort to commit fraudulent activity was perpetrated in order to subvert the will of Michigan voters.”

While Michigan voters didn’t get a chance to voice their opinions on Karamo or DePerno, they will in November when Karamo faces off against incumbent Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, and DePerno goes up against incumbent Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Karamo and DePerno aren’t just election deniers, either. Both have a track record of controversy that calls into question their ability to effectively govern and enforce Michigan’s laws fairly.

Karamo Believes Premarital Cohabitation Has Led to Pedophilia and Bestiality, Denies Evolution, and Thinks Men and Women “Honor Their Crotch”

A community college instructor and former live trivia host, Karamo rose to prominence after claiming she witnessed fraud while working as a poll challenger at Detroit’s absentee counting board in November 2020—a claim that has been repeatedly debunked. Still, Karamo’s lies gave her a platform and ultimately earned her Trump’s endorsement.

While this is Karamo’s first statewide race, she has been a longtime volunteer and conservative activist in Oakland County and unsuccessfully ran to serve as Oakland County Commissioner for the 10th district in 2018.

Beyond her election denialism, Karamo’s also attracted controversy for a number of remarks she’s made over the years.

In a since-deleted 2018 video, Karamo said that premarital sex and cohabitation, as well as homosexuality, have led to the normalization of pedophelia and bestiality. 

“It’s okay, it’s normal to have premarital sex, it’s normal to live with your boyfriend for a few years to see if it’s going to work out, right? No. Because again, when you kick God out, nature hates vacuums, Satan fills right in. And that is what has happened in our society,” Karamo said in her 13-minute video. “And then when we start to say, ‘Oh well, if you want to have sex with somebody of the same sex, that’s okay too.’ And now, it has morphed into something worse.”

RELATED: Premarital Sex, Cohabitation, and Homosexuality Have Led to Pedophilia and Bestiality, According to Trump-Backed Candidate

In an August 2019 blog post, Karamo dismissed transgender women participating in women’s sports as “mentally ill adults playing dress up.” In a 2020 podcast episode, Karamo described gay people as “unnatural” and called churches that welcome LGBTQ individuals “agents of Satan.” 

Karamo, a divorced mother of two, has also expressed regressive beliefs about women’s role in society, and lamented that children are being raised alone.

“We know it’s true because of sexual immorality. It’s because men and women no longer honor God,” Karamo said during an episode of her podcast. “They honor their crotches, people honor their crotch, their crotch is their God, they just let it leave them wherever it goes.”

She has also:

  • accused schools of being “government indoctrination camps.” 
  • stated that evolution is a “fraud” and opposes its teaching in schools.
  • attended a conference for supporters of the extremist conspiracy theory QAnon.
  • compared abortion to human sacrifice.
  • spread the conspiracy theory that left-wing anarchists were behind the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol.
  • said Republicans who disagree with her are “traitors.”
  • made anti-Semitic comments that were criticized by a local rabbi and an anti-hate group.

Following Karamo’s victory Saturday, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes issued a blistering statement about Karamo’s nomination, highlighting what’s at stake this November.

“As someone who peddles in conspiracy theories, denies the 2020 election results and spreads lies about the Jan 6th insurrection, Kristina Karamo shouldn’t be allowed within 100 miles of the Secretary of State’s office for which she has been endorsed by the Michigan GOP,” Barnes said in a statement. “Kristina Karamo is a fear-spreading, inexperienced extremist who brands Republicans who disagree with her as ‘traitors’ and Democrats as much worse.”

Karamo’s record is so littered with controversy that some Republicans believe she’s utterly unelectable in the general election.

“Every ad from April 24 through November is going to say ‘QAnon Karamo is too crazy for us,’ ” state Rep. Beau LaFave, a Republican who ran for the Secretary of State endorsement against Karamo, said before Saturday’s vote.

That warning didn’t sway the party delegates on Saturday, but the Benson campaign is already signaling it intends to make a similar argument to voters ahead of the general election. 

“If the Michigan GOP wants a Secretary of State who peddles in conspiracy theories and doesn’t have the first idea how to provide competent, customer-service driven leadership then they’ve got their candidate,” Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for the Committee to Re-elect Jocelyn Benson, said in a statement. “Not only will Kristina Karamo undermine our democracy and overturn our elections, she’ll take us back to the days when customers had to “take-a-ticket and wait” hours just to renew a driver license.”

A Glimpse Into DePerno’s Long Record of Controversies as a Lawyer

Michigan Republicans’ pick for Attorney General, Matthew DePerno also became a conservative hero du jour for his work contesting Trump’s 2020 loss in Michigan. After then-candidate Biden defeated Trump in the state, DePerno filed a lawsuit in Antrim County, where an error by the Republican clerk skewed initial results in favor of Biden but was quickly corrected. 

Despite the fix and a thorough analysis of the Antrim County results, DePerno has continued his fight to audit the results, which has sown mistrust in Michigan’s election system and been cited by conspiracy theorists as evidence of widespread voter fraud.

DePerno’s efforts stirred up so much misinformation—and helped him raise so much money—that the Republican-led state Senate Oversight Committee urged Nessel to investigate “those who have been utilizing misleading and false information about Antrim County to raise money or publicity for their own ends.”

The AG’s office is in fact investigating whether DePerno made false statements for his own profit, but Nessel has recused herself from the probe given the conflict of interest and said she would appoint a special counsel if charges are necessary. 

DePerno also recently confirmed that the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission, the investigative arm of the Michigan Supreme Court that examines allegations of attorney misconduct, is looking into him in connection with his election conspiracy lawsuit in Antrim County. While details of that investigation have not been made public, if the commission finds that DePerno committed serious misconduct, it has the power to initiate proceedings to ban DePerno from practicing law in the state of Michigan.

DePerno’s antics in 2020 aren’t the first time he’s found himself the subject of controversy.

A Bridge Michigan report found that he was fired from a law firm in 2005 after his coworkers alleged that he “padded” client billings for personal and professional benefit, claimed “excessive” write-offs, and “manipulated” billable hours.

DePerno “committed fraud, deceit and dishonesty with regards to bogus billing, duplicate billing and write offs, in addition to other wrongful acts,” according to a 2006 legal filing from Kreis, Enderle, Calendar and Hudgins PC. DePerno sued the firm over his firing and denied the allegations in court. The two parties eventually settled out of court in 2008.

RELATED: GOP Candidate for Michigan Attorney General Was Previously Accused of ‘Fraud, Deceit and Dishonesty’: Report

As Bridge Michigan reported, DePerno has also been accused of legal malpractice in a case where he allegedly gave bad legal advice to a couple whose home burned down, lost them $13,000 in insurance company payments, and pressured them to put up their home as collateral in case they couldn’t afford his fee—which eventually grew to $138,000.

Outraged over what he considered an exorbitant and unfair fee, the client, Ronald Moffit, said he confronted DePerno over the bill, which led to what Moffit’s attorney called “battery and assault” by DePerno.

“On February 20, 2014, Mr. DePerno physically grabbed (me) by the shirt and informed me that if I did not immediately pay the attorney fees owed that my wife and I would lose our home in a matter of weeks,” Ronald Moffit, who died in 2019, said in his sworn affidavit

DePerno denied the assault allegations to Bridge and said the Moffits were trying to avoid paying their bills. Court records indicate that six days after they refused to pay his fees, DePerno initiated foreclosure proceedings on the Moffitts’ new home and the land where their old home burned down. This prompted another lawsuit, with the Moffits suing DePerno for legal malpractice and to stop the foreclosure sale. 

Ultimately, the case was settled—though not before DePerno was embroiled in yet another lawsuit, this one from DePerno’s liability insurer, the ProAssurance Casualty Company. The company claimed DePerno made “unreasonable demands” of the attorneys they hired to represent him in the Moffit case. Two attorneys ultimately resigned and said they couldn’t represent DePerno “without violating the canons of ethics.”

“All (DePerno) was interested in was generating fees for himself and protecting his way to collect it,” said William Buhl, a retired Van Buren County Circuit Court judge, former Republican, and expert witness in the Moffits’ malpractice suit told Bridge. 

Buhl was so horrified by what he saw that he asked the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission to investigate DePerno in 2016. The commission only releases findings to the public if charges are authorized, which they were not in DePerno’s case.

DePerno also defended former state Rep. Todd Courser after the lawmaker covered up a 2015 sex scandal.

Most recently, during his campaign, he said that Griswold v. Connecticut—a 1968 Supreme Court case allowing married couples to buy and use contraception without risk of prosecution— was wrongly decided. 

“DePerno has said similar things about Roe v. Wade, going a step further to say he would enforce an unconstitutional 1931 law that would make it possible to prosecute women for accessing abortion services and their doctors for providing them,” incumbent AG Dana Nessel said in a statement. “I think voters deserve to know if Matt DePerno plans to allow the state to dictate what goes on in people’s bedrooms and their doctor’s appointments.”


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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