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Trump backs loyalist for Michigan House GOP leadership post

Matt Maddock, Meshawn Maddock
Matt Maddock (center) and his wife, Meshawn Maddock, are shown here at a GOP event in 2020. Maddock is seeking the GOP House speaker position, while his wife is co-chair of the state Republican Party. (Bridge Michigan photo by Jonathan Oosting)

LANSING — Former President Donald Trump appears to be throwing his political weight behind a prominent loyalist who tried to help overturn the 2020 election and is now vying to become the next leader of the Michigan House Republicans.

State Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, on Thursday tweeted a signed note from Trump that was written on top of a Detroit News article about his candidacy for the GOP leadership post.

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"I am with you all the way," Trump wrote. "Also, you have a great wife."

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Maddock, a second-term state lawmaker, is married to Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock, who previously ran a group called Michigan Trump Republicans. 

The GOP power couple assisted in Trump's efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in December when they unsuccessfully tried to seat an "alternative slate" of electors who were denied entry to the Michigan Capitol.

Maddock later spearheaded a letter asking then-Vice President Mike Pence to not to certify the official Michigan electors pledged to Democratic President Joe Biden, who won the state by 154,188 votes.

Trump pressured Michigan’s GOP legislative leaders to help overturn the election by changing the way the state awards its Electoral College votes. But then-House Speaker Lee Chatfield and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey refused Trump’s requests.

With Maddock, the former president could have a more willing partner if he decides to run for the White House again in 2024. 

In his note to Maddock, Trump used a marker to edit a news article about the House GOP leadership campaign. The former president crossed out “un” in reference to “unproven” claims about the 2020 election and added the word "rigged."

Maddock did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment from Bridge Michigan. But he thanked Trump on social media, promising: "We won't let you down."

Maddock is among a handful of House Republicans seeking to lead the GOP caucus for the next two-year term, which begins in 2023. House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, is term limited and cannot seek re-election in 2022. 

Republicans have controlled the state House since 2010, but Democrats hope new boundaries drawn by an independent redistricting commission will give them a better chance to flip the chamber next year.

Both parties will select new leaders following the 2022 election, and the leader from the party that holds the most seats will become the next House speaker.

State Rep. Matt Hall, a Marshall Republican who in December hosted Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani for a legislative hearing on election claims, has been widely considered a frontrunner for the GOP leadership post. 

In a Thursday interview with Bridge, Hall said he has a “lot of respect” for Maddock but touted his own record of support for Trump and noted that 15 incumbent GOP lawmakers have already publicly backed his campaign.

As a Trump delegate at the 2016 Republican National Convention, Hall used his position on the rules committee to stop “Never Trumpers” who “tried to take the nomination from him,” he said. 

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“I think I'm somebody that people know,” Hall told Bridge. 

“They know I've been a supporter of President Trump. They know that I've been an advocate in the Legislature for voter ID and securing our elections. But they also know I've been somebody who's been focused on getting results for the people of Michigan as the chair of the tax committee."

GOP insiders and political observers described the Trump letter as a setback for Hall's candidacy but said he likely remains the favorite to lead the House caucus next term. 

Legislative leadership races "are very much internal battles, and "there's never been in history an outside endorsement that predetermined the outcome," said John Sellek, a consultant and founder of Harbor Strategic Public Affairs. 

Personal relationships with returning lawmakers are important in a caucus race, and "Matt Hall seems to have done a fantastic job putting himself in the position to win a majority of that vote,” Sellek said.

State Reps. Andrew Fink, R-Hillsdale, and Sarah Lightner, R-Springport, have also expressed interest in the leadership post, according to Gongwer subscription news service. 

The race won't be decided until after the 2022 election, when all 110 House seats will be on the ballot. 

A bail bondsman by trade, Maddock was one of 15 Michigan legislators who backed a failed Supreme Court lawsuit seeking to overturn Biden's win.

He and his wife both spoke at a pro-Trump rally in Washington D.C. on Jan. 5, one day before an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol temporarily delayed congressional counting of the electoral votes. 

More recently, Maddock has publicly backed activist calls for a "forensic audit" of the 2020 election, which current legislative leadership has resisted following a GOP-led Senate investigation that found no evidence of widespread fraud. 

In a June report, the Senate Oversight Committee debunked claims about the 2020 election and concluded that Michigan voters should trust the results. 

Maddock has drawn criticism from legislative Democrats, who in January introduced failed resolutions seeking to censure the Republican lawmaker for what they called attempts to "delegitimize Michigan's electoral process."

Maddock has "engaged in a pattern of misconduct that has undermined the public's confidence in him, in the House, and in Michigan's electoral process and democratic institutions," Democrats alleged in the resolution.

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