The internal dispute comes as Michigan Republicans look to bounce back from the 2022 midterm elections in which they suffered historic losses. The party aims this year to capture an open seat in the U.S. Senate while helping the Republican presidential candidate win the battleground state.
Michigan is one of several swing states where parties overtaken by far-right leadership have struggled to overcome infighting and economic problems. Similar situations have developed in Georgia and Arizona, posing a major problem in the 2024 presidential election, where those states are poised to play critical roles.
Karamo, a former community college instructor, rose through Michigan’s Republican ranks by spreading election conspiracies after the 2020 presidential election. He eventually received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump in his bid for secretary of state in 2022, losing by 14 percentage points in a result that it still refuses to concede.
About a dozen Karamo supporters gathered Saturday afternoon in front of the small covered shooting range building in Commerce Township where the meeting was being held.
Barry Doherty, a member of the Brandon Township Republican Party State Policy Committee, said security would not allow him into the meeting. Before the vote, Doherty said the meeting was not an officially called meeting of the state Republican Party and that any action taken would not be official.
“We’re here to let people know (other state committee members know) that next week is the official meeting where business is conducted and that they can bring their complaints to that meeting,” Doherty said.
Doherty said he and others support Karamo and his stance on election integrity and other issues. “I’m concerned that people on the inside don’t see that and the good progress that’s being made,” he said.
Doherty said some of those attending Saturday’s meeting are “state committee members and guests.”
“There are other members of the state committee who are not happy with Kristina,” he added.
In February, Karamo was elected by grassroots activists along with her co-chair, Malinda Pego, to lead the state party until elections in 2024. Less than a year later, Pego signed a petition calling for a vote to recall Karamo.
Eight of the state party’s 13 Congressional district chairmen called on Karamo to resign last week, citing financial instability stemming from insufficient fundraising and asking Karamo to “end the chaos in our party” by resigning.
Karamo refused to resign and vowed not to leave if he was expelled at the meeting, calling the meeting “illegal” in a recent podcast posted on the Michigan Republican Party website. It is unclear whether enough party members attended the Saturday afternoon meeting to make it official.
Karamo did not respond to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Party members formally began seeking Karamo’s ouster in early December, obtaining the signatures of 39 state committee members on a petition calling for a special meeting to consider the change.
To unseat Karamo, opponents would have to present the signatures of at least half of the state party’s nearly 100 committee members on Saturday. Approval from 75 percent of state committee members in attendance would then be required, although a proposed amendment to lower the threshold to 60 percent was approved Saturday, Moeggenberg said, adding it was not necessary.
The state party will still have to take major steps quickly if it hopes to influence the 2024 elections.
The party, according to Karamo, was nearly $500,000 in debt as of October, with another $110,000 owed to actor Jim Caviezel for an appearance at the speech. Karamo and the party are suing the trust that owns their headquarters in hopes of selling the building to settle debts.
The upheaval comes less than two months before the state party hosts a convention on March 2 to hand out 39 of the state’s 55 Republican presidential delegates. The other 16 delegates will be assigned based on the results of the Republican primary on February 27.
Republicans are seeking to win a Senate seat in the state in November, a feat they have not accomplished since 1994. The party is also seeking to gain a narrow majority in the Michigan House of Representatives after Democrats in 2022 gained control of the state House and Senate. , maintaining the position of governor, for the first time in 40 years.