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Multiple conventions, last-minute court orders: Confusion looms ahead of Saturday’s GOP caucus

Nationally recognized MI GOP Chair Pete Hoekstra says any convention outside of Grand Rapids will not be legitimate
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Posted at 5:39 PM, Mar 01, 2024

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — After Tuesday's presidential primary, Michigan Republicans will gather Saturday for a caucus convention to determine which presidential candidate will get Michigan's remaining delegates. But uncertainty around who's in charge is causing chaos ahead of the convention.

How did we get here?

All of this stems from a meeting on January 6th, 2024, where Michigan Republicans voted to remove Kristina Karamo as chairwoman. Following that meeting, she claimed that the removal process and the meeting itself were not legitimate.

The back-and-forth went all the way to court culminating this past Tuesday, when Kent County Circuit Judge J. Joseph Rossi issued an opinion saying that Kristina Karamo was properly removed as chair. As part of the preliminary injunction, Karamo can no longer call herself chair, nor conduct business on behalf of the party.

Karamo has since appealed that ruling and as of Friday afternoon, we were still waiting on a decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, Karamo and other leadership within the party had previously planned a caucus in Detroit for March 2.

But, after Pete Hoekstra was selected as the new chair, he called a caucus for the same day, but in Grand Rapids.

Before the court order was given, the Republican National Committee also previously recognized Hoekstra as chairman, and will likely recognize the Grand Rapids gathering as their official caucus.

But Friday, just one day before the caucus, not only was it unclear what was happening in Detroit, but other conventions outside of Grand Rapids emerged.

Court order declares Detroit convention as "voided"

In an effort to get the Detroit convention legally recognized, Dan Hartman, former General Counsel to the MIGOP under Kristina Karamo, filed a motion for a temporary restraining order in Cheboygan County Circuit Court.

Late Friday FOX 17 obtained a copy of Judge Aaron J. Gauthier's decision, which declared the convention in Detroit as “voided”.

The three-page order explains that “According to plaintiffs, they will suffer irreparable harm by having to choose which convention to attend — the one in Detroit previously scheduled by the party, or the one in Grand Rapids scheduled by this new chair, because if they attend the wrong one their vote for their party’s nominee for President and for delegates to the national convention will not be credentialed or counted."

“They believe that the harm of allowing the Grand Rapids convention to proceed will result in serious harm of dueling slates of delegates with dueling credentials.”

Judge Gauthier denied their request, saying “Plaintiffs are seeking relief from this Court that has already been effectively denied by the Michigan Court of Appeals. At this point, unless the Michigan Supreme Court intervenes, the question of where to attend the Republican state convention seems to have been resolved by other courts. An injunction from this Court would only add confusion rather than clarity.”

Multiple conventions emerge

But despite court orders and judgments from the RNC, many Michigan Republicans remain on Karamo's side and are protesting the Grand Rapids convention.

Thursday night, the 1st Congressional District Republicans announced that they would be holding their own convention in Houghton Lake.

A statement from district chairwoman Daire Rendon says, "The newly declared administration of MRP (Michigan Republican Party) appears to be inviting dissent and disregarding rules with the consent of their Republican National Committee allies. We will not play that game by falling into their confusing messaging and backtracking."

"Denying the majority of the Delegates elected at County Conventions in the 1st Congressional District their right to be heard at the State District Convention is not acceptable," says Rendon.

Rendon said in a phone call with FOX 17 late Friday afternoon that she did not expect the RNC or Hoekstra to recognize their event or any votes that take place.

“Because of all of the ups-and-downs we've been through this week, we decided to bring our delegates to Houghton Lake where we could all meet,” she explained.

Confusion over credentials

Rendon says that Hoekstra’s camp was unclear about the credentialing process for the Grand Rapids event.

“They sent us conflicting information back-and-forth… you’re credentialed, you're not, you need to submit, you don’t… the story was changing almost on a daily basis,” she said.

Rendon says their delegates were credentialed for the previously planned caucus in Detroit.

FOX 17 heard similar frustrations from Dan Hartman Friday afternoon.

"Most delegates from counties who filed their delegations with the Secretary as required by the rules are arbitrarily and capriciously being denied credentials," he explained.

In fact, some county delegations are alleging that they were denied credentials to the Grand Rapids caucus.

"I wish we could be united," Donna Mooney told FOX 17 Thursday night.

Mooney has been an Ottawa County delegate for two years.

"What I'm really angry right now is, Peter Hoekstra along with those people on the establishment side, decided they were going to disenfranchise 24 counties in the state of Michigan by not credentialing the precinct delegates that were elected by their executive committees at their county conventions to go to conventions to certify the Republican nominees," she said.

Hoekstra says delegates could be at risk

FOX 17 was able to speak with Hoekstra over the phone late Friday, who said that these issues with credentials are being mischaracterized.

“They missed the filing deadline. This is not a clerical error,” Hoekstra explained.

“We called all of the county parties and said if you want to be credentialed for Grand Rapids you need to send in your list.”

He says they have an agreement with the RNC that says there will be 13 district caucuses under one roof, 'that’s Grand Rapids.'”

Hoekstra also says there's a chance that if there are not enough representatives from any one District at the Grand Rapids convention, they risk losing their delegates at the RNC.

“These other ones, they don’t follow the rules of the state party and they don't follow the rules we negotiated with the RNC, so I don’t even know why people would think that they would have legitimacy,” Hoekstra said.

Legitimacy in question

On the question of legitimacy, Karamo's supporters still maintain that Hoekstra had no authority to move the convention from Detroit to Grand Rapids in the first place.

"Any chair absolutely lacks the authority to move the meeting from Detroit, contrary to a scheduled location of the state committee which decided and fixed the location in Detroit,"

But Hartman said around mid-day Thursday that he was not aware of any delegates planning to still make the trip to Detroit.

Acting as a delegate himself, he is planning to attend the Grand Rapids convention.

"There is, in my humble opinion, no point in going to Detroit with the state of disarray of the party caused by this failed authoritarian leadership and poor judicial intervention," Hartman said Friday.

"The money paid for Detroit from regulated federal funds is wasted in a power move that only harms the delegates of Michigan and had nothing to do with the leadership dispute."

Hoekstra re-iterated to FOX 17, that people are more than welcome to have their own meetings, but any votes that come out of those meetings regarding the presidential election, will not be recognized.

FOX 17 has also seen other reports that a fourth convention is being held in District 4. However, FOX 17 has not yet independently confirmed the Battle Creek meeting.

The reason Michigan has both a primary election and a caucus goes back to a compromise made with the Republican National Committee after earlier last year, Michigan state lawmakers moved the primary date to Feb. 27. That earlier date violated RNC rules.

FOX 17 will have a crew at the convention in Grand Rapids and will provide coverage throughout Saturday.

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