ICYMI: Well-Attended Garrett Soldano Event That Deliberately Took Place During MIGOP Conference on Mackinac Island Put Grassroots-Party Insider Divide on Full Display

LANSING — Despite urging from MIGOP insiders like former Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and special interest lobbyist John Engler to look ahead to the 2022 cycle, reporting from Bridge Michigan indicates that the base remains committed to re-litigating the results of the 2020 general election.

Since last November, it has exposed a rift between the grassroots and insider wings of Michigan Republicans that only widens by the day. In a display of just how disjointed things have become, gubernatorial candidate Garrett Soldano held a rally in Antrim County deliberately scheduled in the middle of the MIGOP’s conference on Mackinac Island to buck party tradition and echo the grassroots belief that “a full forensic audit of 2020 remains essential.”

According to Soldano, “over 3,000” gathered at the infamous epicenter of the baseless election fraud crusade to hear him speak.

See below for excerpts from Bridge Michigan on the “tale of two Republican Party parties” and read the full report here:

Bridge Michigan: Dueling Gatherings Highlight Split As Michigan GOP Tries To Move On From 2020
By Sergio Martínez-Beltrán and Jonathan Oosting

Call it a tale of two Republican Party parties.

On Mackinac Island this weekend, over 1,200 party members rode horse-drawn carriages around the lavish Grand Hotel and mapped political strategies at the biennial Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.

Less than 100 miles away on Saturday, nearly 2,000 conservative activists railed against party elites and listened to speeches at a farm in Antrim County, a breeding ground for 2020 election conspiracy theories.

The dueling events exemplified ongoing concerns for the GOP: whether party divisions and continued false claims of voter fraud in the 2020 election could hurt efforts to unseat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Democrats next year.

“There are a lot of people who want to focus on the past, and mainly the 2020 election, and are allowing that to get in the way of our larger goal,” said Jamie Roe, a Republican strategist. […]

Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, said it is important to “talk about the things that happened in 2020,” but that she was “also looking forward.”

“As time goes by, people are going to realize that we have more important work to do, that we can’t change what happened in 2020.”

But almost a year later, the 2020 election — and the controversy surrounding it — still haunt the few Republicans who have spoken up against Trump or his claims of fraud.

Two Republican members of the congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton of St. Joseph, and Rep. Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids, have both been censured by multiple county parties over their January vote to impeach Trump. […]

Also missing the conference was state Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, who received backlash for issuing a report that concluded there is no substantiated claim of fraud in the state, and former Vice President Mike Pence, who cancelled a planned keynote speech, citing a scheduling conflict after GOP activists had protested his invitation. […]

Also absent from the island gathering: Garrett Soldano, a gubernatorial candidate who organized the Antrim County event, as well as thousands of activists who claim the Republican conference is not a place for them.

Soldano, a Kalamazoo-based chiropractor and social media personality, used his event on Saturday to rail against so-called RINOs — Republicans in name only.

“We’re making a statement that this is our party,” Soldano said to raucous applause from about 2,000 people at Friske’s Farm Market in Ellsworth. “This is our state. This is our country.”

Soldano accused the Michigan GOP of trying to boost Craig in the Republican primary despite a pledge to remain neutral. […]

Antrim County, a conservative region twice carried by Trump, has figured prominently in conspiracy theories about the 2020 election because a human error by the GOP clerk briefly skewed results in Democratic President Joe Biden’s favor.

While Soldano told Bridge Michigan he has not personally “seen the evidence” of election fraud, his fans cheered as he called for a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 contest. […]

Still, speakers at the Antrim County rally continued to suggest Biden’s election victory could be overturned — and lashed out at Michigan legislative Republicans for failing to “decertify” the contest.

“If you don’t do a forensic audit in this state, we’re not going to vote for you,” said Randy Bishop, a conservative radio host and fixture of northern Michigan politics. […]

Bishop told Bridge Michigan he typically attends the Mackinac GOP conference but skipped this year’s event to endorse Soldano and rally with activists. […]

Jon Smith, secretary of the Hillsdale County GOP, said he traveled to Mackinac Island on Friday to try and meet U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, but did not attend the party’s conference.

On Saturday, he took to the stage in Antrim County wearing a “RINO Hunters” bullseye  T-shirt that promised to “take back the GOP.”

It’s a message that’s especially relevant in advance of the gubernatorial primary, Smith told Bridge Michigan.

“In my personal opinion, James Craig is a Democrat posing as a Republican,” he said of the former police chief who was recruited by Weiser and other top party officials. “I’ve seen the GOP support (former President) George W. Bush too. I’ve seen them support lies after lies after lies.” […]

Republican leaders say they need to stop fighting among themselves if they want to beat the Democrats in 2022. […]

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