Michigan Republicans over the weekend nominated a pair of conspiracy theorists to be their candidates for two key statewide races, showing the continued hold former President Donald Trump has over the GOP in the top swing state.
The Michigan Republican Party nominated QAnon-linked community college professor Kristina Karamo as its pick for secretary of state at its state party convention on Saturday. Shortly afterward, party activists nominated former Trump election attorney Matt DePerno, who continues to push the lie that the 2020 election was rigged against Trump, as the nominee for Michigan attorney general.
That puts the pair of conspiracy theorists one election away from running the election system and serving as top law enforcement official in one of the most important swing states in the country. And with the 2022 midterms shaping up to be a GOP wave, both candidates have serious chances to win in a state that Trump lost by just over 150,000 votes, putting them in powerful positions for the next presidential election.
Karamo became a MAGA star by claiming that she’d witnessed election fraud in Detroit during the 2020 election. She attended a QAnon political rally last August where she pledged to work with other conspiracy theorists in an effort to, as another candidate involved put it, “control the election system” in key battleground states.
Earlier this month at a rally with Trump, Karamo pledged that Trump supporters’ votes wouldn’t be “nullified by illegal ballots.” She has called Michigan’s current Democratic Secretary of State, Jocelyn Benson, “evil,” claimed she is “obsessed with corrupting our election process,” and falsely accused her and other Democratic election officials of intentionally rigging the 2020 election.
“These people were placed in those battleground states strategically to ensure that there was massive cheating and fraud in the election,” Karamo claimed on One America News Network last October.
She’s also spread disinformation about the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, claiming that the rioters were “totally antifa posing as Trump supporters.”
DePerno, a former tax lawyer who only got involved in election law to help Trump push conspiracy theories in 2020, isn’t much different.
He helped create the conspiracy theory that Dominion Voting Systems had rigged the election against Trump by suing Antrim County, Michigan after the election. County officials had mistabulated its results because of human error and quickly fixed the error, but that didn’t stop him from suing the county and alleging something much more nefarious was happening.
DePerno has also been accused of leaking sensitive election data from the county he obtained in the lawsuit to conspiracy theory groups.
Just days ago, a three-judge panel tossed out a DePerno lawsuit to “audit” that county’s election. The judges wrote that his lawsuit didn’t make credible allegations to support the claim that "purported irregularities in Antrim County 'might have affected the outcome' of the presidential election."
The pair were endorsed by majorities of the thousands of Republican Party activists who attended the party convention. Karamo won easily on the first ballot with more than two-thirds of the vote, while DePerno won in a runoff election, defeating former Michigan state House Speaker Tom Leonard, the establishment pick in the race. He’ll face Michigan Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel in the fall. In Michigan, unlike in many states, state parties pick their nominees in conventions rather than in primary elections.
It’s clear exactly how important these results were to the election-denying crowd: Both MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani attended the Michigan Republican Party convention.
Karamo and DePerno were both endorsed by Michigan Republican Party Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, who broke the precedent of party chairs staying neutral in endorsement contests to back Trump’s handpicked candidates.
Maddock was a Stop the Steal leader who, as VICE News reported last year, aggressively “monitored” Detroit’s vote-counting, repeatedly lied that Michigan’s election had seen widespread election fraud, and organized 19 buses to the January 6 rally in Washington. Even after the Capitol riots, Maddock pushed false claims that Trump would remain president.
Trump held a rally with the pair earlier this month, where he made clear that helping them win was all about making sure his people ran the election system in 2024, when he’s likely to be on the ballot once again.
"This is about making sure Michigan is not rigged and stolen again in 2024,” Trump said.
In a Saturday night statement, Trump celebrated their wins.
“Congratulations to Matt DePerno and Kristina Karamo on their incredible victory in Michigan! They will go on to big victories for Attorney General and Secretary of State,” Trump wrote. “I will back them strongly. Michigan is one of the worst on Election Fraud and corruption, and they will put an end to it. At the same time, they’ll get to the bottom of the 2020 Election Fraud!”