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Pete Hoekstra wins MI GOP faction chair race

 Pete Hoekstra (file photo)
Steve Carmody
Michigan Public
Pete Hoekstra (file photo)

One faction of the Michigan Republican Party chose former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands, Pete Hoekstra, as its new chair on Saturday.

Hoekstra now becomes one of two people claiming the title of party chair. The other is Kristina Karamo, who won her position at the party’s convention last February.

A group of party state committee members voted to oust Karamo at a January 6 meeting earlier this month. Many of those same people made up the 72 committee members and proxies that voted for Hoekstra at Saturday’s gathering in Lansing.

Hoekstra said he’ll fix the schism with a message of unity.

“We drive them by what’s our vision, what results do we want to achieve and they’re going to be welcome to be part of that winning process,” Hoekstra told reporters.

But Karamo is refusing to leave her position. She said the January 6 meeting and any subsequent actions from the breakaway group are illegitimate.

Karamo said Hoekstra is part of a power grab by the old guard of party leadership.

“What’s going on is he represents a group of special interests that have defrauded the Republicans in Michigan for decades. And since they can’t legally remove me, they’re attempting to strong arm the party,” Karamo said Saturday.

It’s likely the courts will have to step in to resolve the dispute.

Last week, Karamo’s team sent a cease-and-desist letter to Hoekstra and other detractors involved in the breakaway faction of the party. The group responded with their own lawsuit to freeze party assets and have Karamo legally removed from leadership.

Former state committee member Warren Carpenter was listed as a plaintiff in that suit. He said he expects a ruling within the next couple weeks.

“County committees are looking at having conventions on February 15, which ultimately culminates in a March 2 presidential caucus at TCF. There’s no possible way we can go in with multiple counties sending different slates and different state parties sending different slates,” Carpenter said, in reference to a planned gathering at Huntington Place in Detroit, formerly known as the TCF Center.

Hoekstra said his first priority as leader of his group is getting official recognition from the courts and the Republican National Committee.

“We need to go out and raise funds. As soon as we get the recognition, I think this group will be able to get the support and the trust from donors, not only in the state but from Washington to get us moving,” Hoekstra said.

Meanwhile, Karamo said she’s not expecting the RNC to step in. She said a state committee meeting her supporters held on January 13 where attendees reaffirmed her as chair settled the matter.

Her supporters also voted to remove a handful of her detractors. The breakaway faction said that meeting was invalid.

“A majority of the state committee last week confirmed me as chair. The majority of the precinct delegates want me as chair. But these people see the precinct delegates and the state committee members as unwashed masses,” Karamo said.

Her comments reflect a critical attitude Karamo has taken toward the old guard of Republican leadership that she and her supporters have criticized as the establishment.

Hoekstra said his vision for the state party going forward involves defeating Democrats instead of continuing with attacks against other Republicans.

“We’re going to bring a unified message to Michigan voters about what a difference a Republican agenda makes versus a Biden/Whitmer agenda,” Hoekstra said in reference to President Joe Biden and Governor Gretchen Whitmer, both Democrats.

Regardless of Hoekstra’s message, however, Karamo maintains control of core party infrastructure, including its finances, website, and communications platform. In the meantime, Karamo said she plans to continue working, with her detractors on her state committee still welcome to participate.

Copyright 2024 Michigan Public. To see more, visit Michigan Public.