LANSING – On Saturday, the Michigan GOP picked controversial election denier Kristina Karamo to chair the party in the key battleground state heading into the 2024 election.
Karamo beat out 10 other candidates to take the chair, besting fellow front runner and former attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno by 16 points in the third round of voting.
Though Karamo has been an outspoken supporter of former President Trump and touted his false claims of election fraud, Trump backed DePerno in the party chair race.
Karamo was one of a number of Trump’s endorsees to lose out during last year’s midterms — losing her race for secretary of state in Michigan by 14 points to incumbent Democrat Jocelyn Benson.
Karamo, a former poll worker, had run for secretary of state on a platform of election denial and tried to sue to change Detroit’s absentee voting practices just days before the election.
During her speech before the first vote, Karamo touted her decision last year not to concede the secretary of state race to Benson in November and said the party’s current leadership operated like a “political mafia.” Longtime GOP mega-donor Ron Weiser, a wealthy Ann Arbor businessman, opted against seeking another term as party chairman.
“We’re going to be a political machine that strikes fear in the heart of Democrats,” Karamo told delegates. “We’re going to win.”
During her remarks on Saturday, Karamo said she refused to concede her 615,000-vote loss to Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson because the election was a “fraudulent process.” She has repeatedly made unproven and false claims about Michigan’s voting system.
On Thursday, in a speech to a right-wing “patriot” group in nearby Charlotte, Karamo argued that Christianity belonged to the core of American politics, called evolution “one of the biggest frauds ever perpetuated on society” and asserted the existence of demons.
Karamo, who turned to her bid for state chair quickly after her November loss, proved to have the strongest base of support and broadest appeal. Her campaign was vague and varied on specifics for what she would do as chair, saying in her speech that her first priority would be to “get my hands around the operation.” She made faith central to her appeal, beginning her remarks that night by saying, “My goal number one as a Christian is to bring people to Christ, and secondarily to save our country.”
According to the Washington Post, many delegates interviewed named Karamo’s faith as one of their primary attractions to her. Her nomination was seconded by Petoskey attorney Dan Hartman, who said, “It’s not about election integrity… I want you to understand that I changed my life and decided to serve Christ.” Several other candidates prominently invoked Christianity in their campaigns.
Trump congratulated Karamo in a Truth Social post after her selection, calling her “a powerful and fearless election denier.”
“If Republicans (and others!) would speak the truth about the rigged presidential election of 2020, like Fox News should, but doesn’t, they would be far better off,” the former president wrote, citing a Times article on Karamo’s win. “The New York Times stated that ‘This cements the party’s takeover by Trump loyalists.’ I don’t call them loyalists, I call them GREAT AMERICAN PATRIOTS!!!”
Some Republicans voiced frustration and uncertainty about the party’s direction Saturday.
Former State Rep. Aaron Miller, a Republican from Sturgis, said Karamo’s victory indicated some Michigan Republicans want to keep losing elections. Miller called it a sad day for the GOP.
Democrats won a legislative “trifecta” in Michigan during the midterms, securing control of the State House, State Senate and the governor’s mansion.
Karamo said Saturday that she “cannot wait to get work done” with the Michigan Republican Party, Reuters reported.
“We are going to beat the Democrats in ’24,” Karamo said.
In a Twitter post, Michigan’s Democratic attorney general, Dana Nessel, who fended off a challenge from DePerno during the midterms, said Karamo “will undoubtedly use her new platform as MI GOP chair to continue to file frivolous lawsuits in an effort to undermine MI elections and disenfranchise MI voters.”
Michigan Republicans include local Arab Americans in their state party leadership
On Saturday, at the MRP convention in Lansing, Dearborn resident Rola Makki — a Lebanese-American Muslim — was elected as vice-chair of outreach of the Michigan Republican Party, garnering 59 percent of the delegate vote and defeating two opponents.
Makki, a Republican precinct delegate and a speaker at Dearborn School Board meetings, gave incisive public commentary in opposition to LGBTQ materials in school library collections that she considers to be pornographic.
In 2022, Makki was photographed with Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon and former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), during Dixon’s campaign.
She is the first Muslim woman elected to a vice-chairmanship in the history of the Michigan Republican Party.
Ali Hossain and Hassan Nehme were named as vice-chairmen in the GOP leadership; Hossain will be administrative vice-chair and Nehme vice-chair for coalitions. They were not elected as their candidacies were unopposed.