Michigan Republicans call for party unity as divided field heads to nominating convention

Michigan Republicans will be selecting the party's next leader this week when delegates convene in Lansing for this year's nominating convention.

While the next presidential election is still more than 20 months away, the direction both Democrats and Republicans move ahead of 2024 will be defined by the leadership guiding each party.

The convention, which aims to select the state chair as well as positions managing outreach, coalitions, and administration work, features some well-known names in GOP politics. 

The nominating convention will be the first time since the 2022 midterm election that party leaders have gathered. Democrats reelected Chair Lavora Barnes last weekend. 

Chief among them are former candidates for statewide office like Kristina Karamo, who ran for secretary of state, and Matthew DePerno, who ran for attorney general. Other figures hold positions at the county level, like Mark Forton who is the Macomb County Republican chair. Scott Greenlee, a consultant for previous elections, is also running.

DePerno, Karamo, along with former gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon, all lost in their respective races. The results prompted some to question whether the party, which nominated Trump-endorsed candidates, should pivot toward more moderate figures within the party.

But tremors of discontent haven't shaken either of the two candidates from shying away. Both emphatically announced plans to run for party chair and have been sharing endorsements over the past few weeks. 

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GOP County chapters from St. Clair, Ottawa, and Newaygo have all endorsed Karamo, according to posts on her social media. 

Meanwhile, DePerno was endorsed by former President Donald Trump, who made the announcement during a teleconference on Jan. 30. "Michigan needs help," Trump said in a recorded video. "Republicans have to unite and work together if we want to take back the state of Michigan, which we have to do - we have to do for 24'…"

DePerno scored another nomination this week when Lena Epstein, who had previously announced her intention to run for party chair, backed out to support him.

"Matt has been on the front lines in the battle for the future of this state and our country. I know Matt will always fight for the people, not the politicians, which is why he has my full support," she wrote on Twitter. "I encourage all my supporters to get behind Matt DePerno for chair."

However, the attorney comes with baggage, including an ongoing investigation into his actions involving voting equipment after the 2020 election. 

Greenlee has also scored endorsements, including from the Michigan Federation of College Republicans and former candidate for governor Ryan Kelley. He's previously helped run U.S. Rep. Lisa McClain's successful campaign for Congress.

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Some political consultants see Greenlee's candidacy as playing potential spoiler to DePerno and Karamo. 

Also of note is this will be different in how the delegate's votes are counted. The convention has banned voting machines and will use a hand-count instead when tabulating votes. 

The state GOP's current chairs, Ron Weiser and Meshawn Maddock have declined to run for the position again. Each figure represents different factions of the Republican Party. 

Here are the candidates for party chair, as well as the co-chair position:

  • Scott Aughney - Jackson County Commissioner
  • Kent Boersema - Ravenna Village Trustee
  • Drew Born - Real estate agent
  • Matt DePerno - Attorney
  • Michael Farage - President of the Grand Rapids Taxpayers Association
  • JD Glaser - IT Specialist
  • Scott Greenlee - Republican Political Consultant
  • Kristina Karamo - Former Republican candidate for Secretary of State
  • Billy Putman - Tuscola County Republican Chair
  • Mark Forton - Macomb County Republican Chair

Nominating convention

The convention begins Friday night when each congressional district convenes for their respective caucus.

On Saturday, doors at the Lansing Center open at 8 a.m. and a call to order will be made at 9 a.m.

The convention agenda can be found online here.