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Trump picks sides as Michigan Republicans feud over state party leadership

Trump picks sides as Michigan Republicans feud over state party leadership

Photo Illustration/Nic Antaya and Patrick Van Katwijik/Getty Images

By Kyle Kaminski

January 31, 2024

Ex-President Donald Trump endorsed a former Republican congressman as the new chairman of the state Republican Party. But Kristina Karamo still thinks she runs the show.

MICHIGAN—Who is in charge of the Michigan Republican Party?

It’s a simple question that has puzzled Michiganders for nearly a month following a controversial meeting on Jan. 6, where a group of 45 Republicans voted to remove Kristina Karamo as the party’s chairwoman and subsequently elect a former US congressman to take her place. 

But depending on who you ask, the answer to the question still varies. 

Former Republican US Rep. Pete Hoekstra and the Republicans who elected him believe that he is the chairman. Karamo, for her part, has made clear that she will not recognize the votes to remove or replace her—and claims both of the meetings were “illegally” organized.

The weeks-long feud has since triggered a court battle to determine which leader actually holds the reins to the Michigan Republican Party, and also spurred a personal response from ex-President Donald Trump, who offered his take on the dispute on social media this week. 

Here’s the deal:

Dozens of Republicans voted on Jan. 6 to oust Karamo and chose co-chairwoman Malinda Pego to serve as her temporary replacement. About one week later, another group of Republicans met for a second meeting in which they voted to retain Karamo as chairwoman.

Last week, the same Republicans who voted this month to boot Karamo from office met for yet another meeting in which they elected former US Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who served as ambassador to the Netherlands during the Trump administration, as the party’s new chairman.

Who is the real chairperson?

Nobody knows for sure. 

Karamo is an election conspiracist who refused to concede after she lost her race for secretary of state in 2022. During her campaign, she falsely claimed that Trump won the 2020 election.

She insists that she is still the chairwoman, and it’s still “business as usual” at the state GOP.

The Republican National Committee (RNC)—which may have the most authority to settle the dispute—has reportedly said it appears that Karamo was “properly removed” as chair of the Michigan Republican Party. But so far, it has opted against any decisive action on the issue. 

In a letter, the RNC said its recent determination is “not dispositive” and that “additional information could conceivably come to light which changes its view,” Michigan Advance reports.

Last week, Trump formally endorsed Hoekstra as the party’s chairman—a move which could reportedly help quell the chaos among Republicans, even though Karamo refuses to step aside.

“Pete will make The Republican Party of Michigan GREAT AGAIN, and has my Complete and Total Endorsement to be its Chairman — HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN,” Trump said. 

What happens now?

As a result of the dispute, there are now two distinct entities that claim to be the Michigan Republican Party—complete with separate emails, websites, and social media accounts. One believes Hoekstra is the new chairman; the other still thinks that Karamo is running the show.

As the issue heads into a courtroom, the RNC has said that neither Karamo or Hoekstra will be recognized as the chairperson of the state Republican Party during a winter meeting this week. 

A lawsuit to determine control of the party is set to culminate with a hearing on March 15, but Republicans are eager to reach a resolution ahead of the Feb. 27 presidential primary election.

VIDEO: What’s the deal with the Michigan Republican Party?

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Follow Political Correspondent Kyle Kaminski here.

Author

  • 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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