By Nathan Layne
(Reuters) -A group of Michigan Republicans voted on Saturday to remove Kristina Karamo as state party chairperson after months of infighting and slow fundraising raised concerns her leadership would hurt the party’s chances in the key swing state in 2024.
Karamo, a former community college instructor and grassroots activist who was elevated to her post in February, has indicated she would not respect Saturday’s vote, setting the stage for a potentially messy court battle over party leadership.
At a special meeting called by critics of Karamo, nearly all of the state committee members present voted to remove her from her post, according to Bree Moeggenberg, a state committee member who helped organize the meeting in Commerce Township.
“We have voted to remove Kristina Karamo as the Chair of the Michigan Republican Party. It is now time to collaborate and grow forward,” Moeggenberg said in a statement.
After running unsuccessfully for Michigan secretary of state in 2022, Karamo ran for the party’s top position with a promise to break free from the big donors she vilified as part of the “establishment” while expanding the base of small donors.
But she has failed to deliver on that promise while angering many of her supporters with what they called a lack of transparency from her administration. Contributions from the party’s largest donors have dried up, leading to a cash crunch.
A report released last month by Warren Carpenter, a former congressional district chair and one-time Karamo supporter, said the state party was mired in debt, on the “brink of bankruptcy” and “essentially non-functional” under her leadership.
Karamo did not respond to requests for comment. In an email statement on Friday the party said the Saturday meeting “by a faction of the State Committee” was unauthorized and in violation of party bylaws. Karamo would attend at a separately called special meeting on Jan. 13, according to the statement.
Jason Roe, a former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, said an effective new leader could help the party “right the ship” before the November 2024 elections, but that a drawn out fight in court could hinder that progress.
To date, the chaos engulfing the party has prevented it from fulfilling its traditional role of organizing and fundraising for Republican candidates, former party officials have said.
“I think the chaos is far from over,” Roe said. “If this turns out to be a binding vote I don’t think she (Karamo) or her supporters will go quietly and there will probably continue to be skirmishes throughout the election cycle.”
As the special meeting got underway on Saturday, Karamo’s administration announced it would consider a plan under which candidates for elected office would no longer be chosen by voters in a primary but by precinct delegates in a caucus.
The plan, due to be discussed at the Jan. 13 meeting called by Karamo, was met with criticism by a number of prominent Republicans in Michigan, some of whom warned the move would empower party insiders more likely to elevate extremist candidates while stripping power from voters.
“Instead of trusting voters, the Michigan Republican Party is now attempting to consolidate power into the hands of 2,000 people,” Tudor Dixon, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2022, said in a statement on social media, referring to the party’s roughly 2,000 precinct delegates across the state.
“The MIGOP leadership has become what it claims it despises.”
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Ross Colvin and Daniel Wallis)