The Michigan GOP party faithful Saturday supported two political outsiders backed by former President Donald Trump to serve as the state’s next chief elections officer and top law enforcement official.
Following months of infighting over the future direction of the party, Republican convention delegates endorsed Oak Park educator Kristina Karamo for secretary of state, and Kalamazoo lawyer Matt DePerno defeated former state House Speaker Tom Leonard in a runoff for attorney general.
Neither DePerno nor Karamo has held elected office previously, but the pair rose to national prominence following the 2020 election for their unfounded claims of widespread fraud and vote manipulation.
In addition to the support of the former president, DePerno and Karamo also secured the endorsement of Michigan GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock. Party leaders typically stay out of contested races. Maddock’s unusual intervention in the races angered some Republicans, including candidates who said they were promised by her that she would remain neutral.
At a Trump rally in Macomb County for DePerno and Karamo, Maddock called on members of her party to “join together” and “lay down” their differences to unite behind the candidates endorsed at the convention.
Following the convention, Maddock thanked Trump “for focusing on Michigan” and said that her party will unite behind his preferred candidates.
But the convention appeared to underscore divisions in the party after the attorney general’s race was forced to a bitter runoff between DePerno and Leonard.
Voters supporting both candidates faced off against one another on the convention floor ahead of the vote. DePerno supporters chanted, “Let’s go DePerno,” one sounded a siren on his megaphone and others clapped noisemakers bearing DePerno’s name.
In the first round of voting, DePerno received 49% of the convention vote while Leonard received 40%. State Rep. Ryan Berman received 11% of the vote and quickly endorsed Leonard ahead of the runoff.
Upon accepting her party’s endorsement, Karamo encouraged delegates to support DePerno in the runoff. Berman appeared to try to take the stage but was rebuffed after his loss and endorsement of Leonard.
In the runoff, DePerno secured 55% of the convention vote to Leonard’s 45%, according to machine totals set to be verified by a hand count.
Following the party’s announcement of DePerno’s victory, Leonard acknowledged his loss, saying the “race did not turn out the way we had hoped,” in a statement that expressed his gratitude for delegates who supported what he called his “positive, issue-focused campaign.”
Voting was still going on more than two hours after the convention was supposed to adjourn. Delegates said that this was the longest convention they could remember attending. At one point, the voting paused because of an error in the order of races that appeared on the screen to guide voting, which at first displayed the attorney general race as the last race when it was the first race on the ballot.
Michigan GOP spokesperson Gustavo Portela defended the convention process, saying that neither the DePerno nor Leonard campaigns expressed concerns about the mix-up and that the party does not believe any votes were affected.
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