LANSING, Mich. — Trump loyalists are expected to cement their takeover of Michigan’s Republican Party during its leadership vote Saturday, most likely elevating one of two election deniers whose failed bids for office in November were emblematic of the party’s midterm drubbing in the state.
Matthew DePerno, an election conspiracy theorist who is under investigation in a case involving voting equipment that was tampered with after the 2020 presidential race, is widely considered a front-runner from a field of 11 that includes no high-profile members of the Republican old guard.
His closest rival appears to be Kristina Karamo, another vocal champion of former President Donald Trump’s election falsehoods. Both lost resoundingly last fall: DePerno, in his run for attorney general, by 8 percentage points and Karamo by 14 points in the race for secretary of state.
The selection of either DePerno or Karamo would signal a recommitment to Trump as the state party’s north star, even though voters rejected many of his favored candidates in the midterms. The fractured state GOP appears to have either purged or alienated more moderate voices and is now plotting a defiant course as the 2024 presidential election approaches.
Trump urged Republican delegates to back DePerno during a telephone rally Monday, saying that winning Michigan in 2024 was critical to his returning to the presidency.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who has sowed conspiracy theories about election fraud, also endorsed DePerno and showed up Friday night during a packed event to support him at The Nuthouse, a sports bar near the convention center. A vehicle with video billboards on its sides touting Karamo’s candidacy circled the bar outside.
A consultant for DePerno, Patrick Lee, declined to answer questions about the leadership vote or the status of a prosecutor’s inquiry into the voting machines breach. But DePerno, a lawyer who has maintained that he did not break the law, used the call with Trump to cast himself as an aggressive tactician who would return the state Republican Party to viability.
Karamo did not respond to requests for comment.
The party’s hard-right transformation has exasperated more traditional Republicans, who said in interviews that refusal to heed the lessons of the midterms would deepen the competition gap politically and financially between the GOP and Democrats in a battleground state.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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