(GRAND RAPIDS) -- Both of Donald Trump's preferred candidates -- Matt DePerno and Kristina Karamo won the endorsement of the Michigan Republican Party Saturday, further solidifying the former president's influence on the party.
DePerno, a Portage attorney, is now the MRP's endorsed candidate for Attorney General and Karamo, an elections activist, is the endorsed Secretary of State nominee, putting both in a nearly insurmountable position to win the party's nomination this August.
DePerno won the endorsement on a second ballot after coming 10 votes away from getting the 50% needed on the first ballot.
Although Leonard received the support of Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.), the third Attorney General Candidate in the race, too many Leonard and Berman supporters left the convention after the first vote – allowing for a wave of pro-DePerno alternates to take their place for the later round of voting.
Unless the MRP changes its rules or a candidate receives 75% support at the August nomination convention, DePerno will be the Republicans nominee against incumbent Attorney General Dana Nessel.
DePerno, best known as leading the legal cases in Antrim County on suspected voter fraud, was the top vote-getter in the first round of voting, but fell around 20 votes shy of getting the 50% needed to win.
At that point, Leonard received the support of the third candidate in the race, Berman.
After the first ballot, it was DePerno 982, Leonard 812, Berman 211 and 3 abstentions.
However, with several of Leonard and Berman's original supporters leaving to enjoy the beautiful spring day after the first round of balloting, more alternates were called in. DePerno's team – with the help of convention strategist John YOB -- was able to get more of these alternates positioned ahead of time.
Yob, the Strategic National CEO, said his polling of delegates showed DePerno leading by about 7%. However, when it came to alternates, DePerno was shown leading by about 45% based on the campaign’s strategy to get Trump Republicans to "storm" county conventions and to sign-up for alternate spots.
This group of alternates included the likes of Josh FAULK, who watched the second ballot results roll in.
"There's actually three of us from our little group in Reese who ultimately became alternates," he said.
After the second ballot, DePerno won with 54% of the vote or 1,062 votes. Leonard received 902 votes or 46%.
For Secretary of State, Karamo received 67% support on the first ballot, defeating both Rep. Beau LaFave (R-Iron Mountain) and Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy BERRY handily. LaFave had 390 votes (19%) and Berry 267 (13%).
"I want to thank my opponent for running a clean race and I look forward to serving the people of Michigan, all Michiganders across the state -- all cities, all counties, all political affiliations. I look forward to serving all Michiganders," Karamo said.
An elated MRP Co-Chair MeShawn Maddock, who endorsed both Karamo and DePerno, walked off the convention floor saying she expected the results.
"I expected it all along. I'm not saying I didn't have moments of absolute panic and fear, but I know that this is the way Michigan feels," Maddock said. "I know this is President Trump's party still. He weighed in on this race and I love him for it."
The development now puts a fractured Michigan Republican Party in the position of coming together behind a pair of candidates, who some argued were not qualified for the positions they're seeking.
Both Karamo and DePerno entered the political arena under the belief that widespread election fraud caused Trump to lose the 2020 election, shipping them into the ex-President's good graces and those of his devotees in Michigan.
However, when so much of their campaign platforms has been centered on November 2020, individuals are concerned they will not be able to win broad support in a generable election against a pair of incumbents that Republicans have often labeled as beatable and vulnerable.
"I won't vote for him," said Tom Stroup, wearing a Ronald Reagan t-shirt. "I'll leave it blank . . . It's so sad because Dana Nessel is so beatable."
Asked if he would vote for DePerno, West Michigan Republican Kevin Heine said, "I may need to hold my nose with a large jar of Pepto Bismol at my disposal."
DePerno and Karamo's wins were seen as victories for the grassroots, who remain energized by Trump. While fractions of this group intensely believe in election fraud, they were also ignited by anger toward Gov. @Whitmer’s COVID-era mandates and President Joe Biden's performance in office.
"He's like a breath of fresh air with the grassroots in the party," said alternate delegate Glenn CLARK of Oakland County, who supported DePerno. "Say what you will about Donald Trump, his message brought new activists into our party and DePerno spoke to their hopes and dreams of a better-governed state."
The Trump-backed contingent ended up sticking together.
When Karamo took the stage to accept the endorsement, the convention exploded into a competing chorus of boos and cheers as the equally divided DePerno-Leonard crowd expressed their feelings.
While Kamaro and DePerno ran as a tandem of sorts over the last several months, their respective endorsements were very different.
Karamo got into the Secretary of State race in May 2021 and was alone in the race until last September. Some Republicans expressed hopes that House Elections Chair Rep. Ann BOLLIN (R-Brighton Township) -- the former Brighton Twp. Clerk – or Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus LYONS would enter the ring...but they did not.
For the entire summer, the Wayne County Community College instructor campaigned alone for the job at a time when election fraud conspiracies dominated grassroots gatherings. As a poll challenger at the TCF Center in Detroit, Karamo fit right in.
By the time LaFave and Berry got into the race, Karamo had transitioned away from being heavy on conspiracy theories and into discussing more general areas in how there could be holes for fraud in Michigan’s election systems.
Ultimately, one could say that LaFave and Berry had too much ground to make up.
For Attorney General, Leonard was the party's 2018 nominee and was a known quantity among delegates. He had existing relationships with law enforcement and delegates that allowed him to run a competitive campaign while running against the Trump headwind.
Plus, DePerno came into the race with more baggage. While a cult hero among the conspiracy crowd for his election work, many folks in political circles remember DePerno as the clownish attorney who fumbled his way through the Todd Courser defense.
Courser, the former state representative, resigned under heavy pressure for penning an outlandish false flag letter about being gay to deflect attention away from his affairs with then-Rep. Cindy Gamrat. When Attorney General Bill Schuette pressed charged on Courser, DePerno became his attorney.
Three of the former Courser staffers who blew the whistle on Courser's questionable conduct -- Josh CLINE, Keith Allard and Ben Graham -- re-emerged after years out of the political game to pass out anti-DePerno fliers at today's convention.
The four-page flier highlights how a bench warrant was issued against DePerno in Washtenaw County for failing to appear for a sanction hearing, among other transgressions. A Van Buren County judge was additionally on records saying DePerno has "no ethics at all."
But what the three discovered was attendees either didn't believe what they had to say or weren't interested in hearing it.