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Election-denier is the new head of the Michigan Republican Party

Feb 19.png
Joey Cappelletti
The Associated Press
Kristina Karamo speaks to Michigan Republican Party delegates Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, in Lansing, Mich. Karamo, who was overwhelmingly defeated in her bid to become Michigan’s secretary of state, was chosen Saturday to lead the state's Republican Party for the next two years.

The background: Michigan Republican delegates over the weekend choose Kristina Karamo to be the next Chair of the Michigan Republican Party. Karamo is a conspiracy theorist who denies the fact that President Donald Trump lost the 2020 presidential election. Karamo herself ran for Michigan Secretary of State in 2022 and lost by the largest margin of any statewide candidate. She still has not conceded that election.

The question: What does this tell us about the Michigan Republican Party right now?

The answer: It tells us that Republicans, at least the Republican delegates to this weekend’s convention, are doubling down on the extremes that cost them big races in 2020 and 2022 and that the Karamo wing of the party is now in control.

The takeaway: Michigan voters chose President Joe Biden in 2020 and Democrats not only swept statewide races in 2022, but Republicans lost control of the Legislature for the first time in 40 years. Independent and moderate voters in Michigan are essential to winning statewide elections and this far-right wing of the Republican Party that was put into power this weekend could further turn off moderate Republican voters.

What’s next? Many establishment Republicans aren’t surprised by Karamo’s win because this is where their party has been heading ideologically over the last few election cycles. These Republicans will likely bail on the state party apparatus and, instead, focus more on alternative paths like focusing on direct assistance to the campaign and fundraising arms of the state House and state Senate Republicans. The DeVos-backed Michigan Freedom Fund is an example of an organization that could serve as an alternative for funders.

Meantime, because Karamo was elected Michigan Republican Chair for a two-year term, that means a weaker party infrastructure during the 2024 presidential election as well as the race for the Michigan U.S. Senate seat that will be open with the recent retirement announcement of Senator Debbie Stabenow. A weak party will impact all of that greatly.

Zoe Clark is Michigan Radio’s Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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