Last night, GOP county conventions were held across Michigan as a precursor to anticipated state-level “convention drama” swirling around who the party will nominate for hotly-contested offices.
Already expected to be a dramatic affair considering how polarized and rife with infighting MIGOP has become since 2020, the scene in several counties more than delivered – thanks largely in part to attorney general candidate Matt DePerno’s call for fellow far-right extremists to “storm” these local gatherings.
Read below for reporter accounts of the messy affairs that previewed the “polarizing fight” still to come, despite the limited access in some counties.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): The Michigan GOP credentials committee is going to have a lot to sort out.
Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press): Already seems to be some skepticism of hardworking Republican exception. One delegate says he doesn’t want to send any “Tom, Dick or Harry” to the state endorsement convention.
Clara Hendrickson (Detroit Free Press): Maddocks are here. MI GOP co-chair Meshawn Maddock has angered some in the party for her unusual endorsement in two contested conventions, backing Kristina Karamo for SOS and Matt DePerno for AG.
Beth LeBlanc (Detroit News): Reports that Kent County GOP crowd booed anytime Congressman Peter Meijer was called on to signal his vote for chair.
Laina G. Stebbins (Michigan Advance): 20 minutes into the Macomb County Republican Party’s [beyond capacity] nominating convention and it is already chaos.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): Shouting and people getting in each others’ faces as the Macomb County GOP meeting begins
Alyssa McMurty (Gongwer): The convention is getting intense…many our calling for the convention chair to sit down. He seems to have gotten some order by asking if former President Donald Trump won the election. The question was met with applause
Laina G. Stebbins (Michigan Advance): County chair Mark Forton just dared dissenting members of the crowd to get the police officers outside to arrest him. “I will not throw away my freedom of speech.” Crowd is very loud and raucous, won’t let Forton talk or read his report
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): Mark Forton is demonstrating why he’s been so divisive as the county party chair. He’s spent much of the meeting so far criticizing other Republicans. Some in the crowd love it. Others do not.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): Macomb County GOP Chairman Mark Forton tries to appoint Mellissa Carone to serve a role tabulating votes at the convention. Someone in the crowd points out she’s not a precinct delegate. “Sit down Mellissa,” someone else in the crowd yells.
Laina G. Stebbins (Michigan Advance): Overheard from [Macomb County Prosecutor Peter] Lucido just now: “This party is a mess.”
Laina G. Stebbins (Michigan Advance): Chants of “RINO,” then “lock him up” are drowning out the delegate names being read. It also sounds like there is an attempt underway to permanently oust Forton as chair.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): They are chanting “lock him up” at Stan Grot now.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): Stan Grot is now leading the 10th District caucus meeting and reading off delegates’ names. Someone in the crowd yells, “What about your $200,000 bribe Stanley?”
Laina G. Stebbins (Michigan Advance): Mellissa Carone tells me Forton has been ousted, which she was not expecting. Says this will make the division in the party even deeper. “They won’t have anybody at their own meetings. … We will just move parties. We will make our own and it’ll be fine.”
Alyssa McMurty (Gongwer): Mark Forton was ousted as chair. It seems his supporters are now chanting RINO at anyone on stage. One woman screamed “you suck,” to which the speaker on stage told those who are disruptive they will be escorted out.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): It sounds like the Macomb County GOP is attempting to remove Mark Forton as chairman permanently because of a “lack of confidence.”
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): Something else I didn’t think I would type: Someone is now using an air horn to disrupt the meeting.
Alyssa McMurty (Gongwer): The police have now walked over to the crowd shouting “swamp” and “RINO” after an airhorn sounded off several times to disrupt those on stage.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): 2 police officers are trying to locate the air horn.
Alyssa McMurty (Gongwer): Non-delegates have been kicked out of the convention meeting for roughly 15 minutes while the delegates vote for a permanent chair. People in the hallway and lobby were clearly upset with the mayhem, with many saying the conventions never get this out of hand.
Laina G. Stebbins (Michigan Advance): I’ve been hanging out in the back and there are several pockets of conflict breaking out around me. Sergeant at arms and three Shelby Twp police officers are attempting to deescalate. One man, who has a blue delegate credential, is being disruptive and refusing to leave.
Laina G. Stebbins (Michigan Advance): We have adjourned. Overheard someone describe today as a “shitshow” as I walked out of the room
Paul Egan (Detroit Free Press): At Clinton County #GOP convention in DeWitt Twp, county Chair Jenell Leonard, the spouse of MI attorney general candidate Tom Leonard, asked @freep reporter to leave ahead of the 7 pm start
Jordyn Hermani (Gongwer): Called the Livingston County GOP’s chair this afternoon and was politely informed media wouldn’t be allowed in their nominating convention either. So, it’s more than just a one off thing. But also these are larger Republican areas that are barring access which is… interesting.
Zach Gorchow (Gongwer): Livingston and Kent County Republican parties did not let reporters into their convention. Bad move.
Arpan Lobo (Detroit Free Press): Kent GOP Executive Director Mike Sullivan says their county convention is closed to the media. He didn’t comment on any of my questions either.
Craig Mauger (Detroit News): Some counties aren’t allowing media members into these key events, which is really surprising given it’s 2022.