Michigan Republicans to hold presidential nominating convention at Huntington Place

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The Michigan Republican Party will award the lion's share of its 55 presidential nominating delegates at a convention to be held Saturday, March 2, at Huntington Place in Detroit.

State Republican Party Executive Director Jim Copas and Dr. Rob Steele, a Republican National Committee member for Michigan, confirmed that a deal had been reached and a contract signed with the convention center, formerly known as TCF Center and Cobo Center.

It was also the site of ballot counting in Detroit in the November 2020 general election and saw huge crowds of protesters outside demanding the count be stopped and claims, found to be baseless, of widespread voter fraud made by then-President Donald Trump and his Republican allies.

"We've signed a contract and paid for it," Copas told the Free Press. "They're working out the logistics and all of that now." He confirmed that the convention — which will really be 13 different conventions, one for each of the state's congressional districts — will be closed to the public.

The event comes, however, as the state Republican Party has been rocked by controversy as to who is its top official, though it's not known whether that could have a bearing on the March 2 convention.

A group of GOP state committee members met in Commerce Township Jan. 6 and said they voted 40-5 to remove Kristina Karamo as state chair and some other officials, including Copas. But Karamo — a former secretary of state candidate who has never conceded her defeat to Democrat Jocelyn Benson in 2022 — had declared the meeting null and void even before it began, saying it was not convened in accordance with state party bylaws.

Then, last Saturday, 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 state party co-chair Malinda Pego, who had declared herself acting chair after the Jan. 6 meeting, and other dissenters.

The dispute is likely to end in court even as the various factions of the state party and Karamo attempt to pull off a somewhat complicated nominating process.

Because the Democratic National Committee and President Joe Biden decided to move Michigan's primary to Feb. 27, making it one of the first four official nominating contests, Michigan Republicans had to make a change to their primary plans or face losing many if not most of their delegates to this summer's nominating convention in Milwaukee because it violated their party's rules by being too early.

More: Michigan presidential primary 2024: Election Day date, how to vote, candidates

As such, they adopted a two-step process — signed off on by the Republican National Committee (RNC) — that will see 16 at-large delegates from the 55 awarded according to the outcome of that Feb. 27 primary. Any Republican presidential candidate who gets 12.5% of the primary popular vote will be awarded two delegates, plus an additional delegate for each additional 6.25% of the vote he or she wins.

No one getting under 12.5% of the vote gets any delegates. Any remaining delegates after the allocation go to whoever was the overall winner.

But to get around RNC rules that say no state other than Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada can go before March 1, those 16 delegates won't officially be awarded until after Feb. 27. And on March 2 at Huntington Place, the remaining 39 will be awarded, according to a vote of convention members (also known as delegates) selected from each of the state's 13 congressional districts on Feb. 15.

Basically, Copas said, it will work as 13 different conventions — each meeting in a separate space — where party members selected from each congressional district will cast their votes for a GOP presidential candidate. Presidential candidates, or their surrogates, will be able to meet with each group ahead of the vote.

Each congressional district convention gets three delegates to the national nominating convention to award: If a candidate gets a majority of the votes from a district's delegation, he or she gets all three delegates. If no one gets a majority, the candidate with the highest vote total gets two and whoever comes in second gets one.

Copas — who confirmed that GOP candidates paid a $20,000 fee to the party to be on the congressional district ballots — said the agenda and the starting time for the convention haven't been finalized yet but he said with the contract being signed it should move forward as planned. Two of the already listed candidates, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, left the race after Trump easily won the Iowa caucuses.

Trump won Iowa by 51% of the vote, beating Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis by some 30 percentage points and remains the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination and face President Joe Biden in a rematch.

Free Press staff writer Arpan Lobo contributed to this article.

Contact Todd Spangler: tspangler@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsspangler.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan GOP to hold presidential nominating convention in Detroit