Kristina Karamo sidelines critics amid Michigan GOP revolt
- Michigan Republican Party Chair Kristina Karamo removes critics from top committee posts amid campaign to oust her
- Critics contend the moves are clear evidence Karamo is trying to ‘punish’ political enemies within her own party
- Internal feud comes as GOP state committee is set to meet Saturday
LANSING — Michigan Republican Party Chair Kristina Karamo has removed top critics from party committees as she fights against a growing effort to remove her from the leadership post by the end of the year.
“This is an attempt to punish her perceived enemies,” said Ian Shetron, a Flushing Republican who was dumped from his policy committee post days after publicly acknowledging he signed a petition calling for Karamo’s ouster.
“It serves a strategic purpose as well for her aims for the state committee, but it does seem pretty targeted at people who have expressed criticism of the chair and other members of the administration,” Shetron told Bridge Michigan.
- Michigan GOP critics seek to oust Kristina Karamo: ‘We’ve got the votes’
- Kristina Karamo feuds with co-chair, as Michigan Republican civil war worsens
- Karamo blames ‘deep state,’ as Mackinac fundraiser drives GOP deeper in debt
The turmoil comes less than a year into the tenure of Karamo, a failed Secretary of State candidate last year, and amid significant financial problems for the party. Critics want to oust Karamo as soon as December, ahead of a critical 2024 election cycle that will decide control of the state House, Congress and the White House.
The party’s state committee is set to meet Saturday in Redford Township.
Karamo and Michigan Republican Party officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
In a weekend email reviewed by Bridge, Karamo told fellow Republicans she was changing assignments because some of the party's internal committees had "missed key goals" and "caused significant and unnecessary problems."
Karamo eliminated two committees, including a controversial conflict resolution panel she said had “turned into a massive conflict itself,” and removed several members of the policy committee, which had recently adopted a set of resolutions demanding more transparency from party leaders.
“We were asking how much money we actually have in our bank accounts,” said Andy Sebolt, who chairs the 2nd Congressional District GOP and had led the policy committee until Karamo removed him from the panel now led by a loyalist.
“The one real direction she gave me back in the spring was for policy to look for ways to decentralize the party, but she and her administration have done anything but decentralize,” Sebolt told Bridge on Tuesday. “They want complete centralization of power.”
Sebolt had also previously signed the petition calling for Karamo’s removal but said he had refrained from making that position public while he had served as policy chair.
Sebolt said Karamo knows “we’ve got the support to” remove her.
“I really wish that she could see the error of her ways. Really, she's not a bad human being. She just has no political experience,” Sebolt said.
Karamo is an election denier and Trump loyalist who has not conceded her loss last year to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. Karamo was elected GOP chair in February on a promise to expand the state party’s donor pool by wooing “Republican-leaning” small business owners rather than relying on “millionaire/billionaire class political-establishment operatives.”
But as of mid-August, the party had just $35,000 left in its bank accounts, as first reported by The Detroit News.
A budget committee member resigned this month, warning the party is facing "imminent default" on its line of credit, Bridge has reported.
Karamo has not addressed the internal revolt directly, but two days after Bridge reported on the planned ouster attempt, Karamo emailed Michigan GOP precinct delegates a lengthy defense of her tenure, which she said has been defined by a continued effort to “disrupt the failed status quo.”
“Those fixated on destroying our grassroots mission… attempt to convince you that the key metric of a successful chair is how much money has been raised,” Karamo wrote in the Nov. 23 email.
“By doing so, they are hoping to establish the influence peddling scheme and regain control.”
The real metric for a chair, Karamo continued, “is winning elections and advancing the party’s cause.”
Karamo retains a broad base of support among precinct delegates who elected her to the post. But critics say opposition is growing among the roughly 100 members of the party’s state committee, half of whom would be required to sign a petition to force a removal vote.
The decision to remove Sebolt from the policy committee, in particular, has rankled critics. Karamo had previously praised him for helping develop a hybrid presidential primary and caucus convention plan the party intends to utilize this spring to award its delegates to the Republican National Convention.
“Were you drunk when you had that email sent?” Bree Moeggenberg, a state committee member from Mount Pleasant, asked Karamo in a weekend response email.
“I can't imagine that a sober person with a clear thought process would remove a Standing Committee Chair that has worked tirelessly, with full effort, sacrificing time and a summer that will never be replaced.”
Moeggenberg had served on the conflict resolution committee that Karamo disbanded and has alleged that Karamo is seeking new “unilateral authority” to remove critics from any Republican Party posts across the state.
As Republicans seek to flip the state House next year, elected officials have made clear they expect to handle most of the fundraising themselves.
The state party will have "a lot less of a role than we've seen in the past," Senate Minority Leader Aric Nesbitt, R-Porter Township, said Tuesday.
House GOP Leader Matt Hall "is showing that even in the minority, he's raising the necessary resources that he needs next year to be able to play in the seats that he needs to win back the House," Nesbitt said.
Karamo critics contend the state party could still be a key player in 2024 elections with new leadership, such as former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who served as U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands under President Donald Trump and is being recruited as a possible successor to Karamo.
With so many close races expected across the state, “Republicans are watching the tide” and “recognize there’s no margin of error,” said Jimmy Greene, a longtime GOP activist from Saginaw County.
“Right now, (Karamo) is the margin of error,” he said. “That's just the bottom line. She is the margin of error.”
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