Divided Michigan Republicans plan dueling meetings to choose presidential nominee

By Thomson Reuters Feb 16, 2024 | 4:00 PM

By Nathan Layne

KALAMAZOO, Michigan (Reuters) – Warring factions within the Michigan Republican Party are planning to hold separate meetings next month to choose the party’s presidential nominee, the latest sign of the turmoil gripping the party in the key battleground state.

Pete Hoekstra, who this week was formally recognized by the Republican National Committee (RNC) as state party chair, said on Friday he would preside over a nominating convention on March 2, separate from one planned on the same date by Kristina Karamo, who also claims to be chair.

The turmoil in the party has raised fears among Republicans in the state that it could hurt the candidacy of former President Donald Trump if he prevails and becomes the party’s nominee in the November general election. State party structures play a key role in raising money and getting out the vote.

Karamo was voted out of her position in January by a group of Michigan Republicans unhappy with her performance, but she did not accept that vote. She has also said she does not recognize the RNC’s decision.

Hoekstra, who was endorsed by Trump last month, told Reuters he would oversee caucus meetings for all 13 congressional districts “under one roof as required by the RNC.” He did not say where it would be held.

“The results of that convention will be recognized by the RNC because we are the legitimate Republican Party. Whatever happens at another meeting is just noise,” he said.

Karamo, meanwhile, is planning to hold a nominating convention in Detroit on March 2, where she has told delegates to also be ready to vote to resolve the leadership dispute, according to Bridge Michigan, a news site that first reported on the dueling conventions.

Karamo, a former community college instructor and grassroots activist who was elevated to her post in February 2023, did not respond to a request for comment.

In a change from past elections, this year Michigan Republicans will allocate its presidential delegates to the Republican National Convention in July in Milwaukee based on both a Feb. 27 primary open to all voters and the March 2 caucus convention in which active party members choose the nominee.

Of Michigan’s 55 delegates, 16 will be decided in the primary and 39 in the caucuses. The hybrid system is expected to advantage Trump, who is far ahead of sole challenger Nikki Haley in national opinion polls, because of his grip on the party loyalists who will be at the caucus meetings.

Michael Schostak, a delegate from Bloomfield Township, said he planned to attend the convention chaired by Hoekstra, in part because he expected those delegates to be seated by the RNC at the national convention in July in Milwaukee.

After running unsuccessfully for Michigan secretary of state in 2022, Karamo ran for the party’s top position with a promise to break free from the big donors she vilified as part of the “establishment” while expanding the base of small donors.

But she has failed to deliver on that promise while angering many of her supporters with what they called a lack of transparency from her administration.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Kalamazoo, Michigan; editing by Ross Colvin and Jonathan Oatis)