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Stateside Podcast: What Kristina Karamo's win means for MIGOP

Kristina Karamo
Joey Cappelletti/AP
Kristina Karamo speaks to delegates at the Michigan Republican Party convention Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Lansing, Mich., before she defeated nine other candidates to win the party chair position for the next two years. (AP Photo/Joey Cappelletti)

Over the weekend, Michigan’s Republican Party met to elect new leadership. Kristina Karamo will take the reins from Meshawn Maddock and Ron Weiser as the next chair of the Michigan GOP. Karamo’s election signals an even harder tilt to the right for Michigan’s Republican Party: she takes a hardline stance that conservative Christianity should be the bedrock of all law and government, she engages in culture war politics, and she embraces election denial. Karamo has yet to concede her loss to Jocelyn Benson in the 2022 race for Michigan Secretary of State.

We spoke to Michigan Public Radio Network statehouse correspondent Colin Jackson and Detroit News assistant editorial page editor Kaitlyn Buss about the event and what Karamo’s election indicates for the MIGOP’s future.

What can we expect Karamo to prioritize as MIGOP chair?

Jackson told us Karamo stuck with three main points to garner support for her election: “One of them dealt with elections. One of them dealt with restoring trust in the party. [...] But the third point I thought was most interesting, and that was, she really wants to grow the party, especially in urban areas in and around Detroit, where the party has traditionally just kind of ceded that territory to Democrats.”

What does this election say about the next stage of the party’s life?

“The party here is at a complete standstill,” Kaitlyn Buss said. “I mean, I don’t know what the future looks like. The paper ballot decision was funny because, I mean, do they even trust themselves to count the right votes? And if they don’t, then who do they trust?” she commented, referring to a delay at the event caused by delegates debating voting methods. “I mean, I think it really laid bare the fact that they don’t trust anybody. So it’s a weird place to be in as the Republican Party moving (sic) forward.”

Kristina Karamo rose to prominence largely thanks to grassroots support. She also defeated Matthew DePerno – President Trump’s pick for chair. What does her election mean for moderate Republicans and big donors to the party?

“One of the things I heard that really stuck with me was essentially the idea – the perception, at least – that the party faithful, the large-scale donors, the people donating millions of dollars to conservative causes, they’re also donating to other sides of the political spectrum as well,” Jackson said. “And so [...] the idea, at least, that those people aren’t really on the Republican Party’s side, and therefore, ‘Who needs them?’ You know, they feel like the party itself as things that have been the status quo, is letting them down.”

Buss echoed that sentiment. “I think this reflects kind of a shift in the base of the Republican Party at this point. Some [of that] may be perhaps nationally, which is, you know, kind of: ‘Burn it to the ground and it doesn’t matter.’ They see anyone who raises a ton of money, or has a lot of money to give to political causes, as suspect.”

Hear Colin Jackson, Kaitlyn Buss, and April Baer break down Karamo’s election and the future of the Michigan Republican Party in more detail on this episode of Stateside.

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Ellie Katz joined the Stateside team as an intern in September 2022.
Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Radio in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the Summer of 2020.