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Judge rules Karamo was properly removed as MIGOP chair

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Judge rules Karamo was properly removed as MIGOP chair

Feb 27, 2024 | 6:54 pm ET
By Jon King
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Judge rules Karamo was properly removed as MIGOP chair
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Republican nominee for secretary of state Kristina Karamo speaks at a rally with gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon and former U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in Southfield, Mich. on Oct. 29, 2022. (Andrew Roth/Michigan Advance)

While voters across the state were still casting ballots in Michigan’s presidential primary Tuesday, a Kent County judge ruled that Kristina Karamo was legitimately removed in January as the chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

Seventeenth Circuit Court Judge J. Joseph Rossi made that determination in a hearing over a request for a preliminary injunction to force Karamo, who was elected chair of the party in February 2023, to turn over control of the party’s assets, including its website, email list and bank accounts. 

Rossi said the plaintiffs in the case, or those supporting Republican former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra, are “likely to prevail at trial,” and granted the preliminary injunction, which prohibits Karamo from identifying herself as chair of the Michigan Republican Party. It also prevents her from accessing the MIGOP bank accounts.

RNC names Hoekstra as official chair of the Michigan Republican Party

Speaking with reporters after the decision, Karamo remained defiant, yet unsure how she would proceed.

“I can’t call myself chairwoman, because I’m not going to get into legal trouble, but we will not let this go,” she said in a video posted by Gongwer. “Our delegates will not let it go, because the delegates have been aggrieved.”

But when asked if there would be an appeal of the ruling, Karamo couldn’t say.

“Our general counsel will discuss that, so I can’t comment on what our next steps will be,” she said.

The injunction request was filed by the faction of the party that voted at a Jan. 6 gathering in Commerce Township to oust Karamo due to the dismal state of the party’s finances and then selected Hoekstra to be the new MIGOP chair at a Jan. 20 meeting in Lansing. 

Hoekstra has already been named by the Republican National Committee (RNC) as the chair of the MIGOP and endorsed by Trump, as well as by state legislative leaders.

During two days of hearings last week, the use of proxy votes to achieve Karamo’s removal was bitterly contested, with the attorney for Karamo arguing the party’s bylaws were not adhered to in that regard, thus those votes were invalid.

However, Rossi on Tuesday said the use of proxies at the Jan. 6 meeting was done according to the bylaws, and as such a proper quorum was achieved prior to the removal vote. He also said any actions by Karamo since the vote, “are void and have no effect.”

One of the major decisions Karamo made in that time was to announce a March 2 caucus convention at Huntington Place to help select the majority of Michigan’s presidential delegates. However, Hoekstra has announced a convention on the same day at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids.

When asked if the ruling meant delegates shouldn’t go to the Detroit gathering, Karamo was again defiant, but unwilling to answer the question.

“Of course, we need to discuss that. We want to make sure that delegates are able to vote and have their voices heard, but it’s the reason why Pete had to call the state committee meeting because he knows the overwhelming majority of the committee do not support him. So it is not going to end well,” she said.

Karamo called it “an egregious issue” that “tens of thousands of dollars should go down the toilet because he [Hoekstra] wants to go to Grand Rapids,” referring to the money that has already been spent on booking Huntington Place.

Ultimately, the dispute could impact the 2024 GOP presidential primary process. 

The way Michigan Republicans are selecting presidential delegates has changed this year, as Tuesday’s primary election will award 16 of the GOP delegates. The remaining 39 of the state’s 55 delegates will be determined at the March 2 caucus.

However, the RNC has indicated that only those delegates sent from the convention organized by Hoekstra will be credentialed for the party’s national convention in Milwaukee in July.

That was backed up in an email to party members last week from Macomb County Republican Party Chair Mark Forton.

Judge rules Karamo was properly removed as MIGOP chair
Former convention chair Mark Forton speaks during the Macomb County GOP nominating convention in Shelby Township, April 11, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

“We are now faced with a ‘two competing convention[s],’ one in Detroit and one in Grand Rapids. You have every right to attend whichever one you choose, but many of you are new delegates and are unfamiliar with the way the structure functions,” said Forton.

“The RNC has officially recognized Pete Hoekstra as the Chair of the MIGOP. Therefore, [the] RNC will seat the Grand Rapids elected 39 Delegates at their National Convention. I humbly encourage all the Trump Delegates in Macomb and throughout the State to attend the Grand Rapids District Convention and make sure that Donald J. Trump receives all 39 of Michigan Delegates, and that they are all truly ‘Trump Delegates,’” he said.

Karamo says Rossi’s ruling aside, she knows that she has the grassroots support of the party.

“Hoekstra initially ran for chair, then he backed out because he knew he didn’t have a delegate support,” she said, referring to the February 2023 convention that elected her. “So if he thinks that 30 people speak for the will of delegates, he’s a tyrant.”