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Intra-party disputes break up GOP county conventions before state Republicans set to meet in Lansing

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Intra-party disputes break up GOP county conventions before state Republicans set to meet in Lansing

Aug 12, 2022 | 12:41 pm ET
By Jon King
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Intra-party disputes break up GOP county conventions before state Republicans set to meet in Lansing
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Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey at the Michigan Republican Party Endorsement Convention, April 23, 2022. Shirkey is one of the rejected delegates in Hillsdale County. | Allison R. Donahue

Two Michigan Republican party conventions erupted into conflict Thursday with opposing factions vying for control of each.

In Hillsdale County, a GOP enclave, the executive committee of the Hillsdale County Republican Party canceled its convention after attempting to prevent approximately 70 delegates considered to be “disavowed” from attending and warning they would face arrest if they tried to participate. 

In a July 28 resolution obtained by the Detroit News, the delegates in question, who were elected in the Aug. 2 primary, were informed that executive committee bylaws empowered members to “protect the party from a hostile takeover of actors with intent to dilute or destroy the values of the party,” further claiming the party had been “infiltrated” in the 1970s by neoconservatives practicing “Trochkey International Socialism,” apparently referencing Trotsky International Socialism. 

Having been denied entry to the convention that was eventually canceled, 61 of the “disavowed” Hillsdale candidates held their own convention in a nearby parking lot, electing a convention chair and secretary and then unanimously selecting 13 delegates and 13 alternates for the state convention, including state Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale), and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake).

Republicans clash over control of the Macomb Co. party, hold competing conventions

Shirkey, who serves as an at-large delegate, said the executive committee’s actions were an “embarrassment to anyone who sincerely supports everything good about President Trump” and “should be viewed as an affront by all conservatives and Republicans across the state.”

This comes after Republicans in Michigan and other key states submitted a slate of fake electors after the 2020 election, including Michigan GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, with some trying to gain entry to the official Electoral College meeting in the Michigan Capitol in December 2020. Those actions are being probed by the U.S. House Jan. 6 committee.

Meanwhile, competing conventions were held in Macomb County, one in Warren and the other in Shelby Township, with former county party Chair Mark Forton seeking to wrest back control of the organization from current Chair Eric Castiglia.

Forton was ousted from the position in April when Castiglia seized control of the party’s executive committee, criticizing Forton’s attacks on fellow Republicans and continued emphasis on the results of the 2020 election. While President Joe Biden defeated former President Trump by 154,000 votes in Michigan, many in the GOP refuse to accept the outcome despite hundreds of state and local audits confirming the result. Polling also suggests most Michigan voters don’t agree with election-deniers.

However, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Sabaugh ruled Friday that Forton is the rightful leader because Castiglia’s supporters had violated bylaws by removing Forton without a formal trial. Forton then scheduled a convention Thursday night at Shelby Gardens in Shelby Township.

Castiglia, with the backing of Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser, scheduled a convention for his supporters at the same time at the Royalty House in Warren, where delegates would be selected for the Aug. 27 state convention in Lansing.

Republicans will formally nominate their ticket at the state convention, which is expected to be Tudor Dixon for governor, Matt DePerno for attorney general and Kristina Karamo for secretary of state. The selection for lieutenant governor has not yet been announced.

Citing Sabaugh’s ruling, Forton told his followers they were the lawfully elected delegates, while Michigan GOP leaders only recognize Castiglia’s supporters, leaving major questions to be answered about how the Michigan Republican Party will settle these disputes at their state nominating convention on Aug. 27 in Lansing.

Attorney Mark Brewer, an election lawyer and former Michigan Democratic Party chair, wondered aloud on Twitter if the courts will have to ultimately provide a resolution.

“With stakes this high, this case could end up in the Michigan Supreme Court,” tweeted Brewer.