LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Even as the 2024 presidential election starts to ramp up, the Michigan Republican Party appears disorganized, with an unenthusiastic donor base and no apparent physical presence in Lansing.
After a complete defeat in the 2022 election cycle that saw Democrats take everything from the governor’s race to majorities in both chambers of the state Legislature for the first time in 40 years, Republicans needed to regroup. That seems to have hit some snags.
Michigan Republicans, with many first-time delegates with an allegiance to former President Donald Trump, in February elected Kristina Karamo as their new state chair after she expressed her unequivocal dissatisfaction with the way the party was being run.
“Currently, the Michigan Republican Party operates like a ‘polito-mafia’ who is bent on their own power who do not care about the well-being of the state but rather their own self-serving agenda,” Karamo said at the February convention. “This is why we are being destroyed.”
The party, at that time in financial stress, needed to raise money and get ready for 2024.
But by the admission of the former Michigan Republican Party Chief of Staff Paul Cordes in a post-election memo, those who used to be big donors are not engaged.
“Donors for the most part decided against supporting Trump’s hand-picked (attorney general) and (secretary of state) candidates from the April convention, and also withheld millions in traditional investment into the State Party,” he wrote. “In what many of them saw as sending a message to Donald Trump and his supporters, longtime donors to the Party remained on the sidelines despite constant warnings of the possibility of the outcome we saw come to fruition on Election Day: A statewide sweep and one-party Democratic rule in Lansing.”
That handpicked secretary of state candidate was Karamo.
With the donor class still wary of the direction and leadership of the party, its financial situation and ability to help candidates, including for the state House, is in question.
So is the very operation of the party. A building just north of the state Capitol in Lansing that has long served as the headquarters for the Michigan GOP appears to be empty. That has apparently been the case since Karamo and her leadership team took over. The party’s website doesn’t give a physical address, but instead lists a post office box in a metro Grand Rapids UPS store as a mailing address.
The website lists the party’s phone number as “in transition.” The number hyperlinked to the words “in transition” sent News 8 to a voicemail that was full. The message did not identify the number as associated with the party.
The state party is gearing up for one of biggest events it holds every two years: the Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island, which has traditionally attracted some of the biggest names in the party and dozens of presidential hopefuls. So far, the lineup contains none of the candidates that will be on the stage at the first Republican primary debate in Milwaukee Wednesday. Details about the event are incomplete.
The party seems to have plenty of internal conflict. At a state committee meeting in July in Clare, two party members got into a fight that reportedly left one man seeking medical attention. Another has since been charged with assault and battery.
Kent County’s traditional base of Republican operations, like the one in Lansing, is empty and the signage that once proudly proclaimed the building as the Gerald R. Ford Republican Headquarters has been removed.
In addition to abandoning the headquarters, some of the most recently elected committee members resigned earlier this month, including Kent County GOP Chair Tim Walenga. Sources said there were concerns about the pro-Trump group’s inability to raise funds ahead of next year’s election while alienating traditional donors.
A meeting next week of the Kent County GOP could see new leadership emerge but it’s not clear exactly what that leadership might look like.
While none of the candidates on the stage in Milwaukee will be worrying about the confusion in Michigan’s GOP, the ultimate nominee will have to be concerned. Despite big Democratic wins last year, Michigan is still considered a swing state and along with Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin could help pave the way to victory for the next president of the United States.