Explainer: Could Michigan Republicans Nominate New Candidates on Saturday?

Ralph Rebandt said he wants to be Tudor Dixon's lieutenant governor. (Image via screenshot)

By Kyle Kaminski

August 26, 2022

The GOP nominating convention is Saturday, but squabbles among Michigan Republicans could change which candidates they choose for the General Election ballot in November. There are only 10 weeks left until Election Day.

MICHIGAN—Tudor Dixon is virtually guaranteed to face Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November’s General Election, after about 40% of Republicans voted for her in the primary. But elsewhere on the GOP ticket, uncertainty is lingering.

Until a key vote takes place at the Michigan GOP’s nominating convention on Saturday morning, the ticket below Dixon’s name is essentially still up for grabs. Meanwhile, infighting among the losing candidates and other Republican power players is reaching a boiling point.

Here’s how Michigan’s Republican Party could change the game for voters on Saturday:

What happens on Saturday?

Tudor Dixon stands next to former President Donald Trump <br>Tudor Dixon via Facebook

The GOP’s nominating convention is 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Lansing Center. This gathering of Republican lawmakers and elected delegates happens before every General Election in Michigan, and serves as the final step in solidifying who the party wants to put on the ballot. In addition to an apportioned number of elected delegates, all incumbent Republican lawmakers, national and state party officers, and statewide office holders can participate in the convention.

This year’s convention will decide Republican nominations for lieutenant governor, secretary of state and attorney general—in addition to two nominees each for the Michigan Supreme Court, the state Board of Education and the governing boards of three of the state’s public universities.

Didn’t the GOP already pick candidates?

Matt DePerno <br>Scott OlsonGetty Images

Yes—and no. This year, Michigan’s GOP hosted an endorsement convention in April. It was the first year for this convention, where candidates were unofficially nominated four months before official nominations (which take place this weekend). Early endorsements offer candidates more time to fundraise and spread name recognition prior to being officially named to the ballot.

After months of infighting leading up to the April event, Republican convention delegates endorsed political newcomers Kristina Karamo for secretary of state and Matt DePerno for attorney general, both of whom rose to national prominence for pushing election fraud conspiracies. If things go according to political norms on Saturday, Karamo and DePerno will be officially nominated to represent the GOP in November.

Last week, Tudor Dixon announced that she was nominating former state Rep. Shane Hernandez as her running mate for lieutenant governor. Again, if all goes according to expectations, Hernandez will be officially nominated on Saturday.

But as we’ve seen over the past few years, political norms are not to be trusted in the hands of Trump Republicans.

How could things change?

According to the rules of Saturday’s convention, delegates must cast an “affirmative vote” to approve the three candidates. There doesn’t appear to be any momentum to swap out DePerno or Karamo, despite DePerno’s recent legal troubles that have some worrying the candidate for attorney general will lose his law license.

But Dixon’s pick for lieutenant governor is another story.

If less than half of Republican delegates support Hernandez during the vote on Saturday, Dixon could try again or pick someone else for the nomination. If delegates still don’t support Hernandez or the alternative candidate, it goes on to a third vote—and that’s where things could start to get dicey.

That third round would open the door for anyone on the floor to submit a nomination to fill Hernandez’ place as Dixon’s running mate in her campaign against Whitmer. And more than one losing Republican candidate has already stepped forward with plans to steal the spotlight.

Who could fill Hernandez’ shoes?

Garrett Soldano, the third-place finisher behind Dixon and Kevin Rinke in this month’s Primary Election, was among the first to step up to bat for the lieutenant governorship, MLive reported. Earlier this week, Soldano was reportedly in several behind-the-scenes talks with top Republicans amid plans to have his name pitched as an alternate nomination on Saturday.

Tension continued building among Republicans after Soldano posted a picture of him and DePerno on Twitter meeting to “discuss the importance of building grassroots enthusiasm.”

Hernandez didn’t back DePerno in April, and DePerno still hasn’t publicly endorsed Hernandez.

Soldano, however, backed off the lieutenant governor concept later that day. It’s unlikely that he’ll resurface as a contender on Saturday—unless he backtracks on his latest decision.

But hours later, another potential challenger emerged.

Fifth-place Republican gubernatorial candidate and conservative pastor Ralph Rebandt—whose August vote total percentage was equivalent to the ABV of a Coors Light—announced in a press release that he now plans to challenge Hernandez for Dixon’s second-in-command slot on Saturday.

Screenshot via <a href=httpswwwpoliticocom2022 electionresultsmichigan>Politico<a>

“In my 35 years of parliamentary experience, I have learned that when everyone has a voice in the process, there is greater unity and acceptance in the outcome. It is the will of many of the citizens of Michigan to offer their legitimate voice and by procedure, elect a lieutenant governor who will work with Tudor Dixon to protect the rights and interests of all the citizens of Michigan by exemplifying truth, respect, dignity and love.”

Ralph Rebandt

Former President Donald Trump weighed in about 90 minutes after Rebandt’s announcement, ​ calling on GOP activists to “work together” ahead of the convention. Still, some fear it could turn contentious unless those lingering divisions are settled within the next 24 hours, reports the Detroit News.

Additionally, some delegates may shake things up on Saturday—or at least give it a shot.

Former Macomb County Republican Party leader Mark Forton (who was ousted from the job in April) reportedly plans to lead an effort to replace the county’s 199 elected convention delegates with a separate slate of 199 candidates who are more focused on relitigating the 2020 election.

“We’re going to make a real attempt to get our people seated,” he said in a recent video.

Still, GOP leaders have said that Forton and his crew have no realistic chance of swapping Macomb County’s delegate slate on Saturday because the convention rules don’t allow it.

“The only thing to watch out for, I think, would be people acting crazy, yelling and screaming, and being obnoxious,” 10th District Convention Chairwoman Michelle Smith told MLive.

Some GOP delegates have also been encouraging Karla Wagner to run, Bridge Michigan reports. She served as the campaign manager to fourth-place gubernatorial primary finisher Ryan Kelley.

What about the Democrats?

The Democratic Party had their nominating convention last weekend without controversy. Whitmer, Lieutenant Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, were each nominated to hold down the top of the ticket again in the Nov. 8 General Election.


  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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