Trump influences convention races for Mich. AG, election jobs | News, Sports, Jobs
LANSING (AP) — Former President Donald Trump’s extraordinary effort to shape Republicans’ 2022 tickets will be put to the test this weekend in Michigan, where thousands of party activists will back candidates including in a controversial Attorney General run.
Trump, who continues to misrepresent his 2020 loss in the swing state, is clear about his intentions. He wants to oust Democratic officials who ensured the results remain intact and replace them with allies Matthew DePerno and Kristina Karamo, political newcomers who are running for attorney general and secretary of state, respectively.
“This choice isn’t just about 2022. It’s about making sure the state of Michigan can’t be stolen from Republicans in 2024 or ever again,” Trump said Wednesday during a call with DePerno backers.
His favorite slate for the state’s top law enforcement and election posts, however, is drawing criticism from a wing of the GOP that considers candidates ineligible in November and is frustrated that party leaders from the state openly supported them rather than being neutral.
“We are going to find out if we are going to be held hostage by second-tier candidates who cannot win the general election in order to genuflect to the dear leader, or if we are going to focus on winning the election and ensuring for the Conservatives to control the state government and make the policies we all have to live by,” said Jason Roe, former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.
DePerno helped a voter file a lawsuit after human error led County Antrim to mistakenly show a local Joe Biden victory over Trump. It was quickly corrected but was used to spread false information about voting material.
DePerno’s main rival for the nomination is Tom Leonard, a former legislative leader and the party’s 2018 nominee. State Rep. Ryan Berman is also running.
Leonard lost to Dana Nessel by less than 3 percentage points in a big year for Democrats, but fared better than Republicans who lost the races for Governor and Secretary of State by margins more important.
Trump, who appointed Leonard as U.S. attorney for West Michigan, now calls him an establishment “RINO” – or Republican in name only – lobbyist. He accused him of not doing enough to fight the 2020 election result.
Leonard said he had built a bigger coalition than DePerno, outmatched him, had come under greater scrutiny, and could unify rather than divide the party. He said he was not surprised that Trump was “all-in” for his candidate.
“What it did was it forced me and my team to work harder and it forced us to hone our skills,” Leonard said in an interview. “I think I’ll be a much stronger candidate because of this when we head into November.”
DePerno said his opponents don’t care about the 2020 election and he can draw the biggest contrast with Nessel on COVID-19 mandates and other issues. Having Trump’s support, he said at Trump’s virtual town hall event on Wednesday, is a “great and great achievement” which will result in a “brilliant victory” and party unity.
About 2,500 delegates will vote on Saturday “approval” convention in Grand Rapids, which Democrats started a decade ago. Candidates have pledged to honor the results, paving the way for winners to face the general election before being nominated at another convention in August.
The race for Secretary of State was less heated. Karamo, a community college instructor, is expected to step forward to take on Democrat Jocelyn Benson. The other candidates are State Rep. Beau LaFave and Cindy Berry, a township clerk.
In a sign of the pervasiveness of election lies, the party will use a machine to tally the votes but, in a change, will also do the manual tallying.
Richard Czuba, a pollster who worked in the state GOP decades ago, called the attorney general’s race the most crucial Republican contest in the nation. Trump signed an open letter to delegates and rallied in Macomb County for DePerno.
“Trump has bet so much on this. He’s trying to send a message to the establishment: ‘If you contradict me, I’ll take over and purge you'” he said. “It’s a must race now for Trump. … It will tell us so much about the state of the Republican Party in general. Is Donald Trump in total control of it or not?