Michigan GOP dissenters sue to oust Kristina Karamo in Kent County Circuit Court

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LANSING — Michigan Republicans who want to oust Kristina Karamo took their case to court Friday, alleging Karamo has "brazenly and repeatedly" refused to step aside after being lawfully removed by a vote of the party's state committee.

Malinda Pego, who was Karamo's co-chair and who party dissidents declared acting chair of the Michigan Republican Party when they voted to remove Karamo, is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit filed against Karamo late Friday in Kent County Circuit Court. It alleges breach of contract and seeks a declaration that Karamo was lawfully removed.

That means a judge may decide whether Karamo, who has been in office for nearly one year, is the rightful chair of the beleaguered state party. She has been under fire for lackluster fundraising amid allegations of autocratic rule, a lack of transparency, and improper interference in the workings of county Republican parties.

Karamo said in a Friday night text message she has "no comment at this time."

Kristina Karamo is fighting to retain her position as chair of the Michigan Republican Party.
Kristina Karamo is fighting to retain her position as chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

A group of GOP state committee members met in Commerce Township Jan. 6 and said they voted 40-5 to remove Karamo and installed Pego as acting chair. But Karamo had declared the meeting null and void even before it began, saying it was not convened in accordance with state party bylaws.

Then, on Jan. 13, Karamo called a state committee meeting in Houghton Lake, where she and others who attended said members voted 59-1 to reaffirm her position as chair. Members also voted to remove from office Pego and other dissenters.

In both cases, members of the GOP state committee are in a dispute over whether party bylaws were properly followed in convening the meetings and taking various actions.

"Ms. Karamo has refused to acknowledge the vote and step aside," the suit alleges. "Worse yet, she has brazenly and repeatedly asserted that she continues to occupy the role of chair of the committee, causing significant confusion among precinct delegates and the county Republican organizations throughout Michigan ..."

The anti-Karamo faction is scheduled to meet in Lansing Saturday morning to elect a permanent chair to take over from the acting chair role assumed by Pego.

Karamo's backers mostly boycotted the Jan. 6 meeting and her opponents mostly stayed away from the meeting last Saturday. It normally takes a 75% vote to remove the state party chair, though the dissenters voted to reduce that threshold to 60% at the disputed Jan. 6 meeting.

So far, the Republican National Committee has not weighed in on either side of the dispute over the state party chair. As of Friday, the RNC still listed Karamo as chair of the Michigan Republican Party on its website.

Both Karamo's supporters and her opponents are mostly avid backers of former President Donald Trump, who won the Iowa caucuses Monday and is the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for president.

In addition to Pego, six other state committee and party members are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. They include Norm Shinkle, a former state senator from Monroe and former member of the Board of State Canvassers, and Warren Carpenter, a businessman and former GOP district chair who has led the fight to remove Karamo.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on X, @paulegan4.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan GOP dissenters sue to oust Karamo in Kent County court