Kristina Karamo critics to appeal to national party amid Michigan GOP ‘chaos’
- Michigan Republicans who claim they removed Chair Kristina Karamo will ask the national party to weigh in
- Karamo argues a Saturday vote to oust her was ‘illegitimate’ and invalid
- The warring factions are maintaining separate websites and releasing competing press releases under the Michigan GOP banner
LANSING — Three days after a contested vote to remove Michigan GOP Chair Kristina Karamo, opponents are preparing an appeal to the Republican National Committee in hopes of resolving the leadership dispute.
The Saturday removal vote, backed by 40 out of 107 members of the Michigan GOP state committee, has effectively fractured the party, with both Karamo and her former co-chair Malinda Pego claiming control.
The factions now maintain separate state party websites and have issued competing press releases under the Michigan GOP banner less than two months from a primary and caucus that will help decide the GOP's presidential nominee.
Karamo argues the weekend meeting was "illegitimate" despite critics claiming they followed bylaws.
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While the Pego faction initially indicated potential court action to try and force Karamo out of the post, their first step appears likely to be a direct appeal to the Republican National Committee. The group has yet to take sides but continues to list Karamo as state chairperson on its official website.
In a statement to Bridge Michigan, RNC spokesperson Rachel Lee said Monday that the national party was awaiting information from the Michigan GOP on the weekend meeting “for review.”
As of Tuesday morning, Karamo critics were preparing a "comprehensive" memorandum for the national committee, according to Matthew DePerno, an attorney who ran against Karamo for party chair last year.
He told Bridge he is now working with Pego's team as a volunteer. They hope to submit documentation on the meeting later Tuesday or Wednesday, he said.
"People brought motions to remove Karamo for specific reasons," DePerno said in a phone interview.
DePerno was referring to a lawsuit over Karamo’s efforts to sell the party’s former headquarters in Lansing to address ongoing GOP money woes, as well as a court order last week holding Karamo and the party in contempt over a Hillsdale County GOP leadership squabble.
Karamo says she remains chair of the Michigan Republican Party, and a spokesperson told Bridge in a Tuesday email that her administration is "handling this issue internally" rather than taking their case to the RNC.
The Karamo administration on Monday claimed Pego had resigned and released a seven-page report from a Michigan GOP policy subcommittee on bylaw violations that called any action in the Saturday meeting "NULL AND VOID."
But in a statement identifying her as acting chair of the party, Pego's team denied she had resigned and accused the Karamo administration of "misinformation."
The Karamo ouster effort came after months of internal infighting — and two actual fights — for the Michigan GOP, whose membership now largely consists of loyalists to former President Donald Trump.
Karamo faced criticism over sluggish fundraising numbers and controversial interventions in local disputes.
The ongoing leadership dispute is "the next iteration in what's been a tumultuous time for the state GOP," said Dave Dulio, a political science professor at Oakland University.
"It's not unexpected that two warring factions would end up with the need for somebody else to figure it out," he said, predicting the matter may still end up in court no matter what side the RNC might take.
If the Karamo removal vote is ultimately upheld, Pego would serve as acting chair until the state committee meets again to vote for a permanent replacement to finish out the year.
Possible candidates include Oakland County GOP Chair Vance Patrick and former Congressman Pete Hoekstra, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands under Trump.
DePerno, who lost the post to Karamo last year, said he is not interested in serving as party chair while he defends himself against criminal charges stemming from an alleged tabulator tampering scheme after the 2020 election.
He has pleaded not guilty but said Tuesday the case could be a “distraction” for the GOP.
"I just want to see the party function like a normal, functioning state party that can raise money and help candidates," DePerno said. "I think we're in a bit of chaos right now. And I think anyone looking on the outside would agree."
While Republican donors will be able to find other avenues to support candidates in the 2024 election cycle, the GOP leadership dispute matters because "voters take cues from party labels," said Dulio, the political science professor.
"If people are associating Michigan Republicans with chaos, division and even unsettled business, that's never going to help."
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