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Divided Michigan GOP fractures further amid bid to oust Kristina Karamo

Michigan Republican Party state committee members Anne DeLisle and Bree Moeggenberg are among those those criticizing Chair Kristina Karamo. They attended a rival, in-person event in Commerce Township on Saturday, Dec. 2, that denied the state party a quorum to conduct official business. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Michigan Republican Party members hold competing meetings amid push to oust Chair Kristina Karamo
  • Karamo argues opponents are attempting to ‘sabotage’ the Michigan GOP and return it to ‘the deep state operation it once was’
  • Critics plan special meeting to seek ouster vote in late December

Jan. 4, 2024: Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo held in contempt over party squabble
Jan. 2, 2024: Kristina Karamo critics plan Saturday vote to oust Michigan GOP chair, aides

COMMERCE TOWNSHIP — Bitter divisions in the Michigan Republican Party widened Saturday as critics of Chair Kristina Karamo boycotted a virtual state meeting and used an alternative in-person gathering to organize for her ouster.

The split meant Karamo did not have a "quorum" needed to conduct official state party business — and shows she can no longer effectively lead the party, argued Macomb County Chair Mark Forton, her onetime ally.

“Today is another example,” Forton said, arguing that Karamo and her supporters hosted a virtual meeting “they could control” in order to quell dissent.

“They’re terrified to step in front of these people,” he added. 

Karamo, an election denier who refused to concede her 2022 election loss to Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, took over the state party in February with plans to woo small donors rather than relying on what she calls the “millionaire/billionaire class political-establishment operatives.”

Her tenure has been marked by fundraising struggles and internal feuds that have led to physical fights during previous meetings of the state committee, dominated by loyalists to former President Donald Trump. 

Speaking Saturday on a Microsoft Teams call, Karamo told fellow Republicans that the rival meeting is her critics’ latest attempt to "sabotage" the state party and return it to "the deep state operation it once was."

"We were elected to save the country, not fight for power amongst each other," Karamo said, predicting the ouster is "going to fail."

The embattled chair had planned an in-person state committee meeting too but announced Friday evening that it would be virtual instead after The Commonwealth of Faith Church in Redford pulled out of a hosting agreement, citing potential protests over the Israel-Gaza war.

Without evidence, Karamo accused her GOP opponents of manufacturing the threat of violent protests. She argued a virtual meeting "the best option" given the venue cancellation.

Her critics demanded an in-person meeting, however. Late Friday, several district party chairs announced they had secured the Multi Lakes Conservation Association in Commerce Township for an in-person meeting. 

"Those of us in this room are not members of the deep state," Anne DeLisle, chair of the Michigan's GOP's 8th Congressional District, said Saturday. 

“We're not Marxists, either. We are the grassroots, and we want our party back."

Speaking in Karamo’s virtual meeting, Michigan GOP attorney Dan Hartman said the party has tapped into new fundraising channels but confirmed that Comerica Bank recently sent the party a "notice of default" on a line of credit.

Hartman said the Karamo administration is planning legal action in an attempt to sell the Michigan GOP's former headquarters in Lansing. 

The building is technically owned by a trust controlled by former chairs, Hartman said, calling them "snakes in the grass." 

"We signed up to fight Democrats, but we found out that our problem is that the enemy is within," Hartman said, acknowledging the ongoing effort to remove both Karamo and himself.

Citing the potential for leaks, Hartman discouraged the party from sharing budget committee financial documents. 

But those documents had already leaked, suggesting the Michigan GOP had a net income of about $71,000 under Karamo.

Warren Carpenter, the former chair of the Michigan GOP’s 9th Congressional District, contended Karamo is hiding the true scale of the party's debts.

Speaking at the Commerce Township meeting, he announced he's working with an attorney to file campaign finance complaints at both the state and federal levels. 

Comerica Bank is going to “foreclose” on the Michigan GOP,  "truly bankrupting the party,” he predicted. 

Karamo's critics previously claimed they have the votes to oust her. 

But Mount Pleasant Republican Bree Moeggenberg acknowledged Saturday they have not yet collected enough petition signatures to demand a removal vote.

"People don't want to put their names on those petitions" for fear of retaliation, Moeggenberg said, urging Republicans to sign on ahead of a special meeting critics plan to call for later this month to oust Karamo. 

The chair’s opponents circulated removal petitions at Saturday's in-person meeting. 

Among them was Matt DePerno, the Michigan GOP's 2022 nominee for attorney general who ran against Karamo for party chair. He is now facing criminal charges alleging he tampered with a vote tabulator as part of a failed effort to prove voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Oakland County GOP Chair Vance Patrick told Bridge Michigan he supports the effort to remove Karamo and is "not opposed" to succeeding her should fellow Republicans want him for the job. 

"Counties’ parties are pretty much the state party right now," Patrick said, criticizing Karamo's decision to ignore GOP traditional donors.

"There is no state party.”

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