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Republican leaders vote to oust state party chair; Kristina Karamo vows to fight to keep her seat

 A small number of Kristina Karamo stood outside the meeting hall where a group of Republican leaders met to vote her out
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
A small number of Kristina Karamo stood outside the meeting hall where a group of Republican leaders met to vote her out

A group of Michigan Republican leaders Saturday voted to remove state GOP Chairwoman Kristina Karamo.

But Karamo pledges to fight to hold on to her job. She says the vote was “illegitimate.”

Nearly 89% of those present at the meeting Saturday afternoon in Commerce Township voted to oust Karamo. Her critics blame Karamo for the state Republican Party’s financial and organizational problems.

Less than a year ago, Karamo was elected to lead the state party through the 2024 elections.

The embattled state chairwoman did not attend the meeting. But some of her supporters did.

“Let’s not mistake this. You’ve got a Black woman in power. A Christian. And they don’t want that,” said Darlene Doetzel, a state committeewoman who supports Karamo and voted against removing her.

Karamo and her supporters say the special meeting was not authorized, so the votes to remove her and three of her closest allies are “illegitimate.”

Also at Saturday’s special meeting, current state party co-chair Malinda Pego was confirmed as acting chair until another election for chair is scheduled.

Several of those who backed removing Karamo admitted taking up this fight at the beginning of an election year does not bode well for the Republican Party’s chances.

“The honest truth to that is we were already on a path to lose in the elections,” said Bree Moeggenberg, a state committee member.

But Moeggenberg said something had to be done to give voters a reason to trust the Michigan Republican Party.

One longtime political operative fears the schism in the Michigan Republican Party is threatening to bleed over into presidential and Michigan’s U.S. Senate race.

Brian Szmytke is a senior advisor to chairman of the Oakland County Republican Party. He says the internal fight presents a challenge to campaigns in this year’s elections.

“As a professional political operative, my concern right now, if I am any of the presidential campaigns, if I’m any of our U.S. Senate campaigns, my biggest concern is, 'O.K., who should I actually be working with,'” said Szmytke.

Szmytke said campaigns could alienate the party's grassroots supporters if they pick sides.

In a statement released Saturday night, Karamo promised to “take swift and decisive action to hold all participants in today's attempted coup accountable to the fullest extent allowed under the rules of the Michigan Republican Party bylaws.”

Copyright 2024 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit Michigan Radio.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005.