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New GOP chair in battleground state isn’t just an election denier

The new chair of the Michigan Republican Party is a prominent election denier, but she also has quite a few concerns about "demonic possession."


In the wake of the 2022 midterm elections, which were broadly disappointing for the Republican Party, GOP officials at the state level have had some important decisions to make about the party’s leadership and direction. In many instances, their choices have reflected an indifference to voters’ wishes.

In Kansas, for example, Republicans chose a prominent election denier to serve as the new chair of the state GOP. In Arizona, the new chair turned to election deniers to elevate his candidacy. But perhaps the most dramatic example of the larger phenomenon has unfolded in Michigan. The Associated Press reported over the weekend:

Election conspiracist Kristina Karamo, who was overwhelmingly defeated in her bid to become Michigan’s secretary of state, was chosen Saturday to lead the state’s Republican Party for the next two years. Karamo defeated a 10-candidate field dominated by far-right candidates to win the Michigan GOP chair position after a state convention that lasted nearly 11 hours.

Before digging in on Saturday’s results, it’s worth pausing to appreciate how we arrived at this point.

Last year, Michigan Republicans were optimistic about making significant gains in one of the nation’s most competitive battleground states, which, for some reason, led them to nominate several right-wing candidates for key statewide races. The strategy failed spectacularly, and Democrats swept the contests.

Among the most notable GOP losers were Matt DePerno, a far-right election denier who lost the state attorney general race by nearly nine points, and Kristina Karamo, a radical conspiracy theorist who lost Michigan’s secretary of state race by 14 points.

In theory, their defeats offered the state Republican Party an opportunity to leave extremism behind and move in a more responsible direction. In practice, four months after Election Day 2022, the race for Michigan GOP chair came down to ... DePerno and Karamo.

DePerno appeared relatively well positioned to succeed, having lined up support from prominent conspiracy theorists, including Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kari Lake, and pillow guy Mike Lindell. (On Friday night, DePerno was supposed to hold an event with Lake at a bar in Lansing called The Nuthouse, but there was apparently a scheduling conflict.)

He nevertheless fell short to Karamo after three rounds of balloting at the state party convention.

In case anyone’s forgotten some of the beliefs that made Karamo one of last year’s more notorious statewide candidates, the new chair of the Michigan Republican Party has quite the rhetorical record. Karamo has raised eyebrows, for example, by talking publicly about her concerns regarding “demonic possession,” which she believes can spread from person to person through intimate relationships.

As regular readers might recall, Karamo has also spread Jan. 6 conspiracy theories, rejected vaccines, derided transgender women, condemned evolutionary biology, and suggested cohabitation before marriage opens the door to normalizing pedophilia.

Late last week, ahead of Saturday’s balloting, the Michigan Republican spoke to a group of supporters and reiterated her concerns about “demonic forces.”

So why is it, exactly, that delegates to the GOP convention rallied behind Karamo over DePerno? According to a Washington Post report, one relevant factor was the latter’s willingness to acknowledge his defeat last fall — a step his intra-party rival did not take. “[S]ome delegates said they grew to doubt DePerno because, unlike Karamo, he conceded his loss in November,” the article noted.

In other words, in 2023, Republicans who recognize the legitimacy of election defeats are deemed suspect by parts of the GOP base — all of which suggests the 2024 election cycle is poised to be quite unpleasant.

For his part, Trump backed DePerno, but he nevertheless congratulated Karamo in a written statement, hailing the new Michigan GOP chair as “a powerful and fearless Election Denier.”

Evidently, he meant that as a compliment.