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Michigan State GOP in Virulent Freefall

With a critical 2024 election in the wings, how will the state party get out of the spiral?

by | Jan 12, 2024 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

Intraparty fighting is nothing new in Republican circles. But the GOP of Michigan is taking an internal squabble over the potential ousting of chairwoman Kristina Karamo to a public airing.

A group of what Karamo’s loyal friends called “usurpers” held a secret meeting and voted to remove the current leader, vowing to refill the position in 30 days. The problem is that supplanters did not follow protocol clearly stated in the state party bylaws. The official meeting was slated to occur on Saturday, Jan. 13, so they were a tad early and squirrelly. Adding insult to injury, her co-chair, Malinda Pego, was part of the takedown. She wrote in a December 22 statement:

“As representatives entrusted with the responsibility of guiding our Party’s trajectory into the critical year of 2024, it is incumbent upon us, the State Committee members, to ensure the values enshrined in our Republican Party platform are upheld. The upcoming election demands a united front and strategic planning to secure victory. This necessitates a cohesive and effective leadership structure within our Party.”

A rebuttal email read: “Based on the inappropriate actions that were taken by Malinda Pego on January 6, 2024, which are considered to be a breach of her fiduciary duties, Chairwoman Karamo has accepted what she considers to be Malinda Pego’s constructive resignation as co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party.”

However, eight of the state party’s 13 congressional district chairs agreed with Pego and went further, calling for Karamo’s resignation. Karamo has declared she won’t leave the position no matter what and is not talking to anyone outside her circle, including the local media.

Where Did It Go Wrong?

GettyImages-1389195292 Kristina Karamo

Kristina Karamo (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In 12 months, Karamo seemingly has run the party organization into near bankruptcy; in October 2023 it was reportedly $500,000 in debt. And that untenable number doesn’t include the $110,000 owed to actor Jim Caviezel for his appearance at a fundraising event. Facing an election year of great significance for the GOP – state, local, and national – it seems things need to get better fast.

“The high turnover rate among your staff, the irreconcilable nature of [Federal Election Commission] reports, bank statements, financial statements, and the hiring of inexperienced individuals – including two with financial felony records – raise serious questions. You have also repeatedly avoided answering State Committee requests concerning these issues,” the dissenting county and committee chairs wrote in a December 28 statement emailed to party members.

And then there’s this recent and (to some) disturbing development. The Karamo regime has presented a plan to take the middleman voter out of the system altogether: A Better Political Representation motion will be brought to the floor at the legally scheduled meeting on January 13. The plan is to give the power of the people to a select group, namely Michigan GOP elected delegates.

Karamo’s deputy chief of staff, Joel Studebaker, defended the proposal, claiming that “real actual Republicans who have a constitutional backbone, who are going to fight for them,” is what GOP voters need. He continued via video, “It is absolutely about disseminating the power to where it should be, which is with the precinct delegates, as the level that I would call ‘we the people’ within the Republican Party.”

Studebaker fell flat, and suddenly there was another reason for the Michigan GOP to implode. “Nothing says ‘we respect democracy’ like cutting out millions of Michigan voters,” retorted Matthew Wilk, who chairs the 6th Congressional District Republican Committee.

Michigan GOP – Get It Together

Karamo was a community college teacher who tossed her beret in the arena in 2022 to run for secretary of state. She lost by a whopping 14 points in the swing state, some claim because of her more radical right positions, election-denial, and unfounded conspiracy theories. She did not concede.

The Michigan GOP is in freefall today: It now has two separate emails, two governing factions, and has lost control of its original and official Facebook page. Add in a lawsuit filed against three former Saginaw County party committee members alleging various levels of fraud during the state’s GOP convention, and unity is out the window.

The presidential primary season is set to kick off in Iowa next week. For a state on the line with a heavy burden to carry, nervous grassroots workers, and divided donors, one might think party bosses would want to clear up the dysfunction sooner rather than later.

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