Michigan GOP chair rejects successful vote to remove her: ‘I’m still chair’

Kristina Karamo attends a protest in Romulus, Michigan, February 2023 (Rebecca Cook/REUTERS)
Kristina Karamo attends a protest in Romulus, Michigan, February 2023 (Rebecca Cook/REUTERS)

The Michigan Republican Party slid further into chaos over the weekend after its embattled leader refused to accept a vote to remove her from her post.

Roughly 45 members of the party's 107-strong governing committee met in a closed session on Saturday to eject Kristina Karamo as chair, according to local media reports.

But Ms Karamo has insisted that their vote was "illegitimate" and had "no legal standing" under the party's bylaws, declaring: "I am still chair of the Michigan Republican Party."

The dispute is now likely to entangle the national Republican Party or even end up in court, with Ms Karamo vowing to take "swift and decisive action" against anyone involved in what she called an "attempted coup".

It marks a new depth of tumult for Michigan's state GOP, which remains dogged by fundraising problems and riven with in-fighting – sometimes to the point of violent brawling – even as the 2024 election looms.

"The allegations that chairwoman Kristina Karamo has been removed are categorically false," said the state party's official account on X, formerly Twitter, on Saturday afternoon.

"The rogue faction of anti-grassroots operatives who conducted this unlawful process will be dealt with swiftly and accordingly based on the rules of the Michigan GOP bylaws."

Ms Karamo was overwhelmingly elected by grassroots activists last February on a promise to rebuild the party and rescue its finances in the wake of massive losses in the 2022 midterm elections.

As in many local Republican parties, the Michigan GOP's embrace of election denialism and domination by hard-right activists has reportedly led to a funding crisis as big donors withhold their money.

But Ms Karamo, herself a staunch election conspiracy theorist, has failed to win them back, and opponents now accuse her of exacerbating the party's debts while heightening internal divisions.

All that came to a head last week on Saturday when a group of committee members voted to oust Ms Karamo and replace her with co-chair Malinda Pego, in a session that Ms Karamo insists was invalid under party bylaws.

About 71 of the party's 107 committee members were represented at the meeting either in person or by proxy, according to The New York Times, which was enough to constitute a quorum according to the bylaws.

But while proxies do count when establishing a quorum, they do not count towards the actual tally of votes required to eject a leader or change the bylaws.

That left Ms Karamo's fate to just 45 members who were present in person. According to The Detroit News, they voted overwhelmingly to oust her.

Some Karamo supporters also told The Michigan Advance, a non-profit news site, that party officials had nominated proxies to represent them without their permission, effectively packing the meeting.

The meeting's organisers said that this was permitted by the bylaws, which allows some officials to select a proxy on behalf of a committee member who has not nominated their own.

“Petitions with the required signatures requesting the meeting and vote to remove former chairwoman Kristina Karamo... were submitted accordingly, and pursuant to the Michigan Republican State Committee bylaws, before the vote was taken and passed with over the needed threshold,” Ms Pego said.