Matt Maddock decries ‘mess’ after expulsion from Michigan House GOP caucus
LANSING – Michigan state Rep. Matt Maddock laughed at the question: Do you think you’ve been treated fairly?
“You know what, this whole thing has been a mess,” the Milford Republican told Bridge Michigan on Wednesday, one day after he was expelled from the House Republican caucus that he is campaigning to lead next year with the backing of former President Donald Trump.
“The only thing I’m focused on right now is winning elections and getting Republicans elected across the board,” Maddock said in a brief exchange after a House session.
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The second-term state lawmaker’s quest to remake the House into a “MAGA operation” has alienated some colleagues, and his expulsion from the GOP caucus has emerged as the latest front in a bitter battle between fierce Trump loyalists and more traditional Republicans for control of the party.
Maddock has recruited a slew of new candidates who could vote for him to become the next House Speaker. And he’s used his leadership PAC to support them, including at least one Republican who is running against an incumbent colleague: Mick Bricker of Spring Lake, who is challenging state Rep. Greg VanWoerkom, R-Norton Shores, in a GOP primary.
Maddock was officially expelled from the caucus for violating confidentiality rules, House GOP spokesperson Gideon D’Assandro confirmed Wednesday but did not elaborate. The decision was made by Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, who declined to speak to the media for the second straight day.
“I have no idea what that means,” Maddock said of the explanation for his ouster.
Maddock and House GOP leaders have been at odds for months, if not longer. While Wentworth has not explained his decision to punish Maddock, “the things that most likely pushed him over the edge have been going on for more than two years,” said state Rep. Scott VanSingel, R-Grant.
Tensions escalated last month when Maddock openly criticized Wentworth and fellow state Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Adams Township, during a Young Americans for Freedom event at Hillsdale College, which is in Fink’s district.
Maddock, who owns a bail bond company, accused Fink of pushing a "leftist agenda" to "put bail bondsmen out of business,” according to audio obtained by MIRS News.
Wentworth, Maddock said, is "not a fighter" and has made a "big error" by not doing more to "show our Republican base we're out there for them.”
Asked if those comments may have led to his expulsion, Maddock said Wednesday that he apologized to Wentworth and Fink last month. At the time, Wentworth stripped Maddock of his access to central staff services, including policy analysts and communications teams.
Fink declined comment on Maddock’s expulsion on Wednesday, saying only that he is “not pushing any leftist agenda” and “not trying to end cash bail.”
‘A fight in the family’
Rep. Andrew Beeler, a Port Huron Republican who sits between Fink and Maddock on the House floor, declined to discuss details of caucus deliberations, but he said Wednesday that it is “hard to work with people who are actively campaigning against other folks in the room.”
The drama is “unfortunate,” Beeler told reporters. “Nobody thinks it’s a good thing. Nobody’s happy about it. It’s a fight in the family, just like many things are… and I’m physically in the middle of it.”
Beeler said he does not think the expulsion speaks to any larger divides in the party. But Maddock supporters have decried it as the latest attempt by the “establishment” to fight back against Trump loyalists who have effectively taken over the Michigan GOP, including his wife, party co-chair Meshawn Maddock.
"I can't see it any other way," said Jon Smith, secretary of the Hillsdale County Republican Party. "The grassroots have spoken, and they're challenging it now."
Maddock and his wife have been instrumental in helping several state House candidates secure endorsements from Trump. They also assisted Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss, unsuccessfully trying to seat an "alternative slate" of electors who were denied entry to the Michigan Capitol.
His expulsion came two days after a Michigan COP convention dominated by Trump supporters voted to endorse statewide candidates who have joined the former president's quest to overturn or undermine his 2020 election loss: Matt DePerno for attorney general and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state.
Trump loyalists also were endorsed for other statewide offices, including university boards.
While Trump celebrated the convention results, veteran Republicans predicted DePerno and Karamo will hurt the party's chance to take advantage of what could otherwise be a wave election because of Democratic President Joe Biden's low approval ratings.
Tony Daunt, a longtime conservative operative, responded to the endorsements by quitting the Michigan Republican Party’s central committee in disgust.
"Feckless, cowardly party 'leaders' have made the election here in Michigan a test of who is the most cravenly loyal to Donald Trump and relitigating results of the 2020 cycle," Daunt wrote this week in a resignation letter first reported by The Detroit News.
"Incredibly, rather than distancing themselves from this undisciplined loser, far too many Republican ‘leaders’ have decided that encouraging his delusional lies – and, even worse – cynically appeasing him despite knowing they are lies, is the easiest path to ensuring their continued hold on power, general election consequences be damned."
‘A strong conservative’
The caucus ouster means Maddock will no longer be able to meet with House Republicans behind closed doors to discuss legislative strategy and policy ahead of floor votes.
He no longer has access to shared caucus staffers, and his page on the House GOP website was removed.
But Maddock is still a state representative. He can still introduce or vote on bills, still has an office, still has his own staffers and is not losing any committee assignments.
And he can still run to lead the caucus next term, either as House Speaker or minority leader, depending on if Republicans retain their majority after fall elections. Maddock, who Trump endorsed for the leadership post, is competing with state Rep. Matt Hall, R-Marshall.
Despite his caucus ouster, Maddock remains an influential figure in the Legislature, said state Rep. Steve Carra, R-Three Rivers, who told Bridge MIchigan he has not yet taken a side in the leadership race.
“He’s a strong conservative,” Carra said of Maddock. “I’ve enjoyed working with him, and I’m going to continue working with him moving forward.”
House Republicans last removed a lawmaker from caucus in 2019, when leadership ousted state Rep. Larry Inman of Williamsburg after he was accused of bribery, extortion and lying to an FBI agent, charges he ultimately beat.
D’Assandro, the House GOP spokesman, said leadership is not aware of any comparable allegations against Maddock. He insisted Maddock was expelled for violating caucus confidentiality rules, but he declined to provide any details.
“The caucus doesn’t discuss internal issues,” D’Assandro said, echoing the mantra of state lawmakers, who repeatedly told Bridge Michigan that what happens in caucus, stays in caucus.
“I can’t get into their private conversations,” he said.
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