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Struggle for leadership of Michigan Republican Party continues as Karamo claims solidified power

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

A divide within the Michigan Republican Party widened at a meeting Saturday in Houghton Lake.

Party Chairwoman Kristina Karamo, one of two people actively claiming that title, hosted a gathering of State Committee members. According to party communications, those members voted 59-1 to reaffirm Karamo as party chair.

“The matter has been settled,” Karamo said in a video posted to the party’s social media on Saturday afternoon.

Karamo set up the meeting in response to attempts by her opponents last weekend to oust her as chair.

On January 6, a group of around 45 State Committee members and proxies voted to strip Karamo of her leadership position at a meeting in Commerce Township. Her general counsel, Daniel Hartman was also targeted.

The dissenters placed the title of interim chair on Karamo’s former co-chair Malinda Pego.

“Petitions with the required signatures requesting the meeting and vote to remove former Chairwoman Kristina Karamo and former General Counsel were submitted accordingly and pursuant to the Michigan Republican State Committee Bylaws prior to the vote taken. The vote passed exceeding the needed threshold,” a statement from Pego dated January 6 read.

But Karamo refused to accept the results of that meeting. Her team issued a report a couple days later detailing why the party apparatus she controlled saw the January 6 meeting as illegitimate.

This weekend’s meeting was billed as a chance to have a vote on Karamo’s leadership. But the meeting, mostly of her supporters, took it beyond that.

Aside from voting to not recognize the January 6 meeting, members present voted to suspend Pego and six of her allies’ affiliations with the party for five years. That’s according to a party press release.

In a statement released Saturday night, Pego wrote that party business conducted at the meeting was “not authorized nor permitted.” She continued to claim the title of “acting chair” of the Michigan Republican Party.

“I will continue to stand up against these types of attacks against our representative republic,” Pego wrote.

Earlier this week, Pego sent an email canceling the January 13 meeting due to winter storm conditions. She said a meeting next Saturday, on January 20, will be “an official meeting to elected a new chair” again, this time in Lansing.

“We the undersigned Michigan Republican Party District Chairs and Vice hairs hereby recognize the results of The Michigan Republican State Committee meeting of January 6, 2024,” a letter released Saturday from nine of the party’s congressional district chairs and a handful of other party officials read.

On one side of the fractured party, Karamo and her supporters maintain control of party infrastructure, including its website and social media accounts.

On the other side, Pego and her supporters have set up an alternate website. The Detroit News reports they plan to sue to have the court system work out the matter.

Colin Jackson is a reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.