Michigan Democrat Says Election Threat Might Make State Unsafe for Her If She Loses

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel's opponent, a MAGA darling who denies the 2020 election results, has said he wanted to jail her if he wins.
U.S. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel attends a campaign rally held by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) designed to get Michigan State University students, faculty and staff out to the polls on October 16, 2022 in East Lansing, Michigan
U.S. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel attends a campaign rally held by U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) designed to get Michigan State University students, faculty and staff out to the polls on October 16, 2022 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

In the wake of the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Democratic politicians across the country have spoken out about the increased threats of violence they’ve faced in the lead-up to the midterm elections. 

But according to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, death threats and intimidation aren’t new to this election cycle—they’ve been a constant throughout her three-year stint as the top law enforcement figure in the state.


“In the last 24 hours, I had somebody come by my house, then get out of their car, went on the lawn and started taking pictures of my house,” she said to VICE News in an interview earlier this year while she was on the campaign trail. “It’s a scary time, there’s no question about that.”

Michigan is no stranger to extremism: Not only was the far-right Michigan militia active in the 90s—which once counted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh among its members—but Nessel’s office recently prosecuted and convicted members of the Wolverine Watchmen militia for plotting to kidnap and kill Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in 2020.

What Nessel didn’t see coming was the threat she faced from her Republican challenger, Matthew DePerno, a Kalamazoo lawyer and MAGA darling who is currently under criminal investigation for his role in an alleged vote-meddling scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election.(The investigation, now led by a special prosecutor, was launched under Nessel’s watch.)

“I'm running against a guy who has the endorsement of the Republican Party in Michigan, who has made part of his platform wanting to imprison me, the [Michigan] secretary of state, and the governor of Michigan,” she said. “He has said repeatedly that that is his plan.


“I don't know that it's safe for me to stay in this state.”

DePerno has made the jailing of his opponent a feature of his campaign. 

“When I'm elected, she'll go from wearing business suits to orange jumpsuits!” he tweeted earlier this year

Nessel says she has even considered whether she would flee Michigan for another state, because DePerno, who was reportedly in Washington on Jan. 6 meeting with Trump administration officials plotting to overturn the election results, is so intent on her eventual prosecution should she lose against him.

The adoption of violent and aggressive rhetoric within the GOP during this midterm election cycle, and post-Jan 6. writ large, has already given rise to threats and intimidation against mostly Democrat members of Congress, seemingly culminating in the attack on Paul Pelosi, 82, in San Francisco late last month. The alleged perpetrator yelled “Where’s Nancy?” and later, under interrogation, told police he planned to tie her up and torture her by breaking her kneecaps.

Additionally, a Pennsylvania Democrat running for a state House seat there claimed he was attacked earlier this week and suspected it was election-related. 


Many Democrat lawmakers, like Nessel, fear this is just the beginning of what could turn into a broader trend, especially as she sees Republican candidates who fail “to condemn” far-right extremist groups that commit violence because “certain individuals that are running right now that I think align themselves with some of these organizations.”

And Democrats have real reasons to fear given some of the content increasingly being shared by the far-right on encrypted apps like Telegram, including neo-Nazi terrorist groups and their supporters who have called for the killing of politicians. For example, an international terrorist group under an FBI probe said on its Telegram account that politicians, including Republicans, should be bona fide targets for murder.

“Our enemies have names, addresses, and loved ones too,” it said in a message seen hundreds of times. “We have no moral obligation to subject them to equal retribution for their crimes. They deserve to be tortured and humiliated in the most egregious fashion possible.”

Late last week a particularly violent Telegram channel used by neo-Nazis demanded that would-be assassins of politicians need to “get the job done and get it done right or quit LARPing,” referring to the Pelosi attack. 

The account, which is yet more evidence of a growing bloodlust on the far-right for political blood to be spilled, pointed out that three political figures have already been attacked this election season and zero have been killed, allowing politicians to beef up security in the meantime.

Beyond the underground doldrums of Nazi chatrooms, mainstream Republicans have done very little to quell talk of political violence, before and after January 6. Former President Donald Trump, who often still openly references the QAnon conspiracy theory, famously failed to denounce the Proud Boys, a designated terrorist group in several countries, during a debate with current President Joe Biden in 2020. (Trump would later condemn the Proud Boys, while claiming he knew little about them.) Meanwhile, other Republican congressmen continue to describe the Jan. 6 attackers as “peaceful protesters.” 

Polls seem to indicate Nessel is in a neck and neck race with DePerno, despite the Democrat vastly outspending him.