Another far-right leader takes control of the Michigan Republican Party

Photos: Nic Antaya & Marcel Van Hoorn via Getty Images

By Kyle Kaminski

February 28, 2024

The new chairperson of the Michigan Republican Party is a former congressman with a lengthy record of opposing access to reproductive health care and LGBTQ rights.

MICHIGAN—Kristina Karamo has been properly removed as chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party and must now formally hand over the reins—and full control of the state party’s finances—to newly installed chairman and former Republican US Rep. Pete Hoekstra.

That’s the decision of Kent County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Rossi, who issued an order on Tuesday declaring that Karamo hasn’t been in charge since members of the state party voted on Jan. 6 to remove her from office, and that Hoekstra is now—officially—the rightful chairman.

“Any actions of Ms. Karamo since Jan. 6, 2024, purporting to be taken on behalf of the Michigan Republican state committee are void and have no effect,” Rossi said, also ordering that Karamo immediately stop identifying herself as the chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. 

Who’s the New Guy?

Hoekstra served nine terms as a US representative from 1993 until 2011 and as a US ambassador to the Netherlands under ex-President Donald Trump’s administration. He also ran—and lost—a campaign for governor and US Senate in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

During his time in Congress, Hoekstra worked to block access to reproductive health care and opposed LGBTQ rights. He also has a history of voting against gun safety bills, opposing paid leave for federal employees, and making islamophobic remarks, reports Bridge Michigan

Hoekstra also faced widespread criticism in 2006 by falsely claiming that weapons of mass destruction had been found in Iraq. And just last month, he welcomed believers in the QAnon conspiracy to pursue leadership positions within the Michigan Republican Party.

Republicans have turned to Hoekstra to unify the state party because he’s more connected to the traditional GOP cocktail-hour-goers and fundraising apparatus that Karamo has bucked since taking office, said Sam Inglot, executive director at Progress Michigan. But when it comes to right-wing extremism, Michiganders can expect a familiar playbook, according to Inglot. 

“He’s been around and knows the players. But changing who is chasing the money won’t change the policies or politics of the party,” Inglot opined in the Detroit Free Press. “Hoekstra and Karamo have more in common than either of them would probably like to admit.”

Reproductive Freedom

Hoekstra’s record of opposing access to reproductive healthcare was enough to earn him a perfect candidate score from the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List in 2012—including for co-sponsoring legislation that aimed to ban virtually all forms of birth control and abortion.

In 2005 and 2008, Hoekstra co-sponsored bills that sought to define human life and legal personhood as beginning at “the moment of fertilization” and grant frozen embryos—including those used for in-vitro fertilization—with the same constitutional protections as human beings.

Those bills never went up for a vote, but he tried again in 2009 by co-sponsoring similar legislation that sought to protect “the right to life of each born and preborn human person.” 

An analysis from the Washington Post found that Hoekstra’s so-called “fetal personhood” legislation would’ve not only threatened abortion access nationwide, but also likely restricted access to IUDs, emergency contraception, and other hormonal forms of birth control.

LGBTQ Rights

Hoekstra is also a fervent opponent of LGBTQ rights. 

While in office, he co-sponsored nine anti-LGBTQ bills—including the Defense of Marriage Act and legislation to restrict same-sex adoption. Hoekstra also refused to enact a nondiscrimination policy for LGBTQ people within his own office, reports the Washington Post.

Dutch officials sharply criticized Hoekstra’s track record after he was appointed as ambassador to the Netherlands, which became the first country in the world to legalize gay marriage in 2001.

Islamophobia

After he left Congress in 2011, Hoekstra reportedly joined the Investigative Project on Terrorism—a nonprofit group dedicated to tracking “radical Islamic terrorist groups.”

In 2015, Hoekstra faced criticism for falsely asserting that there are Muslim-controlled “no-go zone” neighborhoods in Europe that are so dangerous that non-Muslims cannot enter. 

According to CNN, Hoekstra also appeared as a frequent guest on a radio show hosted by anti-muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney, where Hoekstra speculated—without a hint of evidence—that as much as 15% of Muslims (or about 270 million people) are radical jihadists.

Hoekstra has also reportedly derided past US presidents for calling Islam a “religion of peace” and repeatedly referred to Middle East refugees coming into the United States as “invaders.”

How did we get here? 

This week’s ruling against Karamo came after months of infighting over the deteriorating financial condition of the Michigan GOP, which boiled over into a vote to boot Karamo on Jan. 6.

In the weeks that followed, both the national Republican Party and ex-President Donald Trump declared that Karamo was properly removed and that Hoekstra was the new chairman. 

But Karamo—who has a lengthy history of denying election results—refused to recognize the decision, and planned to hold a convention to select presidential delegates this weekend.

After the ruling, Karamo told reporters in Grand Rapids that the judge’s decision was “grossly unfair.” But so far, she appears to be complying with the order to step aside—including by removing language that had identified herself as the party chairwoman from her Twitter bio.

“There won’t be much change to the Michigan Republican Party, because members of the Republican Party have shown us that they have no problem with the MAGA agenda that is hell bent on taking away our freedoms and supporting a corrupt former President Trump,” Inglot said in a statement this week after the ruling. “No matter who is at the helm of this MAGA-rotted ship, it’s still going in the same direction: following right behind Trump’s conspiracy theories, his hateful and divisive rhetoric, and his bent towards anti-democratic Christian nationalism.”  

READ MORE: Trump picks sides as Michigan Republicans feud over party leadership

For the latest Michigan news, follow The ‘Gander on Twitter.

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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