MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Republican Party held its every-other-year event on Mackinac Island over the weekend.
The party, which has reportedly been struggling financially, was able to pull off the high-profile event despite earlier rumblings that it might not happen.
However, the conference, which usually hosts between 2,000 and 3,000 people, appeared to be much smaller. There were certainly fewer elected officials on hand than in previous years.
“It’s a new day, new party, a lot of new faces so everybody is getting to know each other and get it figured out,” state Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, said.
The agenda of speakers, unlike years past, did not feature a long list of presidential hopefuls: Only Vivek Ramaswamy showed up. Many of the speakers who did participate, including the party Chair Kristina Karamo, repeated their claims about election fraud and continued to deny the outcome of the 2020 election.
For some attendees, it wasn’t about looking back but instead looking toward the next election. The big party donors who have often been front and center on Mackinac Island have been largely absent and silent since Karamo was named chair.
That, said state Rep. Rachelle Smit, R-Shelbyville, is concerning.
“Well, we obviously need money to win races. I mean, it took that for my seat and we’re going to need that for our big statewide races,” Smit said. “I haven’t seen the donors here that would maybe historically supported (the party). I hope they come through, otherwise the grass roots are going to be doing what we can to put forth that effort.”
The donors’ absence underlines the divide in Michigan’s Republican Party. Some conservatives don’t support the views of the current leadership and feel alienated.
Meerman thinks it’s time for the multiple factions of the party to start communicating.
“I think the way forward for the Republican Party is us continue to talk to each other and get to know each other,” he said, “and this even right there is one of those things that we need to be engaged in from any part of the Republican party that you call your home.”
But that’s the problem: Some who have long supported the Michigan GOP no longer feel like they have a home in the party. That could spell trouble heading into the big 2024 election.