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Michigan GOP plan: Skip voters, let party bosses choose candidates

The Michigan Republican Party, controlled by party chair Kristina Karamo (right), may consider a plan that would allow party appointees, rather than voters, select primary nominees. (Bridge file photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Michigan Republicans mull plan to effectively end primaries and let party precincts chose candidates
  • The plan emerged on the day party activists are set to call for the removal of Party Chair Kristina Karamo
  • Proponents say the plan would elect 'real Republicans;' critics say it's ludicrous and illegal

Jan. 17: Bank: Michigan GOP defaulted on $500K loan, hasn’t made payment in months
Jan. 13: Kristina Karamo: I’m ‘undisputed’ GOP chair. Not so fast, critics say
Jan. 9: Kristina Karamo critics to appeal to national party amid Michigan GOP ‘chaos’

LANSING -- The Michigan Republican Party, under embattled Chair Kristina Karamo, is considering a plan that would effectively end primary elections by authorizing party insiders to select nominees for most political offices. 

The "Better Political Representation" motion, slated for state committee consideration at a Jan. 13 meeting called by Karamo, was announced Saturday in a video that featured her deputy chief of staff Joel Studebaker.

The development comes as Karamo critics plan to gather later Saturday in Commerce Township for a planned vote to remove her as chair, a maneuver Karamo has argued would be illegal under party bylaws.


The new proposal would allow Michigan GOP precinct delegates, who are elected every two years, to select the party's nominees for most political offices —  including local, statewide and congressional races — in closed caucus meetings. 

While the plan would prevent most Republican voters from deciding the party's nominee, Studebaker argued it "doesn't disenfranchise voters" because it would give them what he thinks they really want: "real actual Republicans who have a constitutional backbone, who are going to fight for them."

"It is absolutely about disseminating the power to where it should be, which is with the precinct delegates, as the level that I would call 'we the people' within the Republican Party."

Critics pounced on the plan, saying it violates Michigan law, which includes provisions requiring a "direct vote" for any primary election. 

Under current law, the major political parties do select their own nominees for attorney, general and secretary of state, but most other races are decided by primary voters including candidates for governor, the Legislature and Congress.

Karamo was the Republican Party's nominee for secretary of state in 2022 but lost by double digits to democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson.

"Nothing says 'we respect democracy' like cutting out millions of Michigan voters," Matthew Wilk, who chairs the Wayne 6th Congressional District Republican Committee, wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. 

Oakland University political science professor Dave Dulio, writing on social media, said the plan evoked “the days of the party boss in the late 1800s when the boss controlled everything in politics.”

Karamo allies pushing the plan argue it would benefit grassroots candidates who otherwise might not be able to compete with better-funded candidates backed by the so-called establishment.

"MI Republican voters deserve a primary process that enables their communities to elect trusted and vetted constitutionalists," Budget Committee Chair Dan Bonamie and Precinct Plan Chair Ken Beyer wrote in a Saturday morning email to members of the Michigan GOP's state committee. 

"This motion eviscerates the status quo politics and provides an unobstructed pathway for hard-working middle-class Michiganders to run for office."  

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