This past weekend, Kristina Karamo, an election denier who has yet to concede in her 14-point loss to Jocelyn Benson for Secretary of State last November, was elected chair of the Michigan Republican Party. She won the seat on the third ballot by defeating fellow election denier Matthew DePerno with 58% of the votes. DePerno, who was also unsuccessful in his bid last year as the Republican nominee for Attorney General, lost to Karamo despite securing Donald Trump’s endorsement.
By winning Saturday’s vote, Karamo becomes the first African American to be chosen as the Michigan GOP chair. This milestone also marks the first time that both major parties in the state will be led by Black women. Lavora Barnes is serving her second term as chair of the Michigan Democratic Party.
Karamo’s rise to GOP chair represents significant changes for state Republican leadership. Outgoing GOP chair Ron Weiser, who previously served three stints in the position, was not visible at Saturday’s convention.
Karamo takes over leadership at a time when Michigan Republicans face many challenges following historic losses in last November’s midterm elections. Michigan Democrats currently control the state House, Senate and governor’s office.
Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson discusses this new era of the Michigan Republican party with The Detroit News reporter Craig Mauger, political communications strategist Bill Nowling, and Republican State Rep. Steve Carra, who voted for Karamo at Saturday’s convention.
Listen: How will new Michigan GOP chair Kristina Karamo shape the party’s future?
Craig Mauger covers state government and politics for The Detroit News. He recently wrote a piece about how former state Rep. Lee Chatfield provided a foothold in state government for lobbyists. Karamo can nominate members to Michigan’s Board of State Canvassers, and influence where GOP money is spent.
“There are benefits to the Republican Party apparatus that are created in state law, and she now wields those benefits,” says Mauger.
Bill Nowling is a longtime political communications strategist in Detroit, executive director of strategic communication at ad agency DP+. He says the state Republican party is broken and a new independent party needs to rise to represent people who are conservative but don’t feel represented by the current GOP.
“I don’t think it can be saved. I think they really crossed the Rubicon here and embraced this very vocal, very strident ‘anti-intellectualism.’ We have people here who are denying basic facts that are verifiable by any reasonable person walking down the street,” says Nowling.
State Rep. Steve Carra is a Republican in the Michigan House from Three Rivers, representing the 36th District. He also chairs the Republican Grand New Party PAC. Carra believes Karamo is a good person and faithful Christian, which helps explain why he voted for her at the convention last weekend.
“Kristina, I do have a lot of faith in her. She brings something to the table that is desperately needed in the Republican party — being a genuine, good person,” says Carra.