Kicked in groin, Republican downplays party feud: ‘Some people are crazy’
- Amid Michigan GOP tensions, fight erupts at state committee meeting
- Clare County Chair Mark DeYoung was hospitalized and filed police complaint
- The man who allegedly kicked DeYoung is a GOP activist who brought a Barbie on a noose to a COVID protest
LANSING — The chair of the Clare County Republican Party says he is “a little sore” but recovering from suspected stress fractures in his back following a physical altercation at a contentious Michigan GOP meeting in Clare.
The official, Mark DeYoung, was hospitalized Saturday and filed a police complaint after he was allegedly attacked by Wayne County activist James Chapman, a fellow Republican who was trying to gain access to the meeting.
"All I did was get up and open the door like a foot wide … and a leg comes right into the door and gets me right in the groin," DeYoung told Bridge Michigan on Monday, alleging that Chapman subsequently tackled him in the hallway.
"I wasn't there to fight,” he said. “I was in a suit. It was crazy."
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State party chair Kristina Karamo on Saturday convened a closed meeting of the central committee at the Doherty Hotel to address what she had called "lies" about her recent decision to remove a budget committee chair who questioned internal spending.
Chapman, who claims he acted in self-defense, was among roughly a dozen GOP delegates and activists who tried to gain access but were locked out of the meeting room.
"That closed meeting had no business happening," Chapman told Bridge on Monday. "Kristina (Karamo) ran on transparency in connection with the delegates. You can't do that by having a closed meeting."
Chapman was wiggling a door handle to the meeting room when DeYoung approached to open it, according to multiple accounts. What happened next is the subject of a law enforcement investigation.
DeYoung said he heard the handle rattling for several minutes and decided to open it. As he did so, Chapman gave him the middle finger through a small window and then immediately kicked him in the groin, DeYoung told Bridge.
Both men then took their glasses off, DeYoung said, noting he has boxed “in the ring” before so put his hands up near his head as a protective gesture in case Chapman took a swing.
"He charges me like a football player — to tackle me — and pushes me all the way down the hallway into the furniture, and my back lands on the arm of a solid wooden chair," DeYoung recounted.
"By the time I landed on that, guys were on top of him trying to pull him off and they all landed on top of me too. I got pulled into the Riptide out of nowhere. Just like that: ‘boom.’"
Chapman, in a separate phone interview with Bridge, alleged that DeYoung had "threatened" him through the door’s window and came out of the meeting with "his dukes up."
Chapman initially declined to discuss details of the incident, citing what he called an attorney-instructed "gag order." Chapman later claimed witnesses could validate his account but refused to name any, citing a potential trial.
It's not the first physical fight Chapman has been involved in at a political event.
The former state Senate candidate was involved in a brief altercation in 2020 when he brought a Barbie doll hanging by a noose to a Capitol protest against Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's COVID-19 restrictions.
According to MLive, Chapman has a criminal history, including a prison sentence for assault with intent to do great physical harm in 1990, and jail time for resisting a police officer after attempting to stab an acquaintance in 2018.
"Those aren't Republican values," DeYoung said, questioning Chapman’s mental health and suggesting initial news reports wrongly portrayed Chapman as "some kind of innocent motherfricker” who was simply caught up in party drama.
"We're not really fighting that much in the Republican Party," DeYoung said. "But there are some people that are crazy, and they get emotionally wrapped up in there, and they don't want to talk."
Chapman told Bridge police removed him from the weekend meeting but did not arrest him at the time. He appeared amused by weekend news reports from national and international publications.
"Well, I finally made the cover of ‘The Rolling Stone,’" he said, before beginning to sing his version of a 1972 song by rock band Dr. Hook. "Going to see my picture on the cover. Gonna buy five copies for my mother."
Chapman was suspended Monday by the Wayne 6th Congressional District Republican Committee, according to its chair, Matthew Wilk.
“If the media reports are true, this sort of behavior has no place in our party or civilized discourse, and will not be tolerated,” Wilk said in a statement.
Karamo, the Michigan GOP chair who has been feuding with her own co-chair over party finances, did eventually open the central committee meeting up to other Republicans for a question-and-answer session.
But Karamo did not shed much new light on budget struggles and did little to dissipate tensions, according to 5th Congressional District Chair Jon Smith.
"I think a lot of people went home with more questions," he said. "I don't know what is preventing us from moving forward in a productive way. I can't figure out what it is. I don't know if it's communication. I don't know if it's a vision problem. I don't know if it's bad actors."
Contrary to a series of anonymous emails circulated before the meeting, there was no concerted effort by state committee members to remove Karamo through a "no confidence" vote, Smith said.
While he did not personally witness the physical altercation, Smith told Bridge he had carpooled to Clare with a group that included Chapman. They discussed the incident briefly — but not extensively — on the ride home, he said.
"It lasted a whole 30 seconds," Smith said of the skirmish, which he recalled being vaguely aware of from inside the meeting room. "They were in the hallway by themselves, so I don't think anybody got to see it."
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