Michigan GOP leaders vote to oust embattled party chair Kristina Karamo

A power struggle is taking place within the Michigan Republican Party after state party officials voted to remove chair Kristina Karamo from her post last weekend.

At a meeting in Oakland County on Jan. 6, 40 members of the Michigan Republican State Committee, the state party’s central governing body, voted to oust Karamo. Party co-chair Malinda Pego of Muskegon County was appointed acting chair until a permanent chair is chosen; however, Karamo and her supporters argue that the vote to oust her was not conducted in accordance with party bylaws, the vote was therefore illegitimate, and she is still the rightful leader of the party.

Tension has increased between Karamo’s allies and her critics over the last few months. Some members feel she has done little to unify the state party and relieve it of its financial troubles as it remains thousands of dollars in debt. Eight of the 13 Michigan Republican Party district chairs wrote a letter to Karamo in December pleading with her to step down and “put an end to the chaos in our party.”

Following Saturday’s vote, both Pego and Karamo issued competing press releases on separate state party websites.

“For me, this is not a happy day. It’s a somber day. However, the bylaws process and rules were followed,” Pego’s statement reads. “Now is the time to unify Republicans and grow our voter base to win elections throughout our state in 2024 and beyond.”

Karamo, on the other hand, doubled down on her claim that the meeting was a sham. In her statement, she attacked Pego and Matt DePerno, a former GOP attorney general candidate who competed with Karamo for the chair position last year.

“The rogue cabal of anti-grassroots establishment operatives, led by Malinda Pego, initiated the attempted coup when they colluded with Matt DePerno and other unethical individuals from the Oakland County Republican Committee,” Karamo said, promising to take action allowed under party bylaws to hold those who attended Saturday’s meeting accountable. 

Two days after the Oakland County meeting, Pego issued a statement refuting claims by Karamo that Pego had resigned from the state party.

Karamo entered the political spotlight when she began making public allegations that she had witnessed fraud in Detroit during the 2020 presidential election. She has shared numerous conspiracy theories in the past, saying that Beyoncé was secretly trying to convert Black people to paganism through what Karamo called her “‘Black is King’ album” (“Black is King” is a film) and that yoga is a satanic ritual. 

She won the GOP primary bid for Michigan secretary of state in 2022, but lost the general election later that fall to incumbent Democrat Jocelyn Benson by more than 615,000 votes. To date, she still has not conceded her loss.

As Michigan Republicans continue to fight over leadership, Karamo has scheduled a special meeting of state party leaders on Jan. 13 in Houghton Lake. Pego sent a separate email to state committee members saying the Jan. 13 meeting was canceled.

The Republican National Committee has not picked a side on the matter. RNC spokesperson Anna Kelly told Northern Michigan broadcast station 9&10 News on Monday that the committee had yet to officially receive information on the weekend’s meeting.

“State chairs and RNC members are chosen by the state Republican parties. When the Michigan Republican Party sends us the information on their meeting over the weekend, we will review,” she said.

As of Jan. 11, the official RNC website still identifies Kristina Karamo as Michigan GOP chair.