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Pete Hoekstra joins Michigan GOP chair race

Pete Hoekstra
Wikipedia Media Commons
Pete Hoekstra

The race to become the next Michigan Republican Party chair is getting a little bigger.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the Netherlands Pete Hoekstra is joining Tuscola County Republican Party chair Billy Putman, former gubernatorial candidate Garrett Soldano, and Republican attorney general nominee Matt DePerno in the race. The Detroit News reports Soldano and DePerno are running together to be co-chairs.

The party expects to choose its new leadership in February.

Michigan State University Professor Matt Grossmann, who studies American politics and public policy, said the field reflects conflict over the party’s relationship with former President Donald Trump.

“Republican primary voters like Donald Trump and aren’t concerned with his direction in the party, [and they] like to kind of take his cues. But general electorates do not,” Grossman said.

In the weeks following this month’s midterm election, Republicans have seen some finger pointing going around. Democrats swept the statewide races and took control of both houses of the Legislature.

Former Republican gubernatorial nominee Tudor Dixon expressed interest in becoming chair after her loss. Though she hasn’t announced her candidacy, she openly criticized leadership for what she described as a lack of support.

During the election, donors shied away from some of the Republican candidates.

“There was a perception as to who could win statewide among donors and it related to this overall conflict that … the party regulars think that the Trumpier the candidate the better, and general election voters don’t agree,” Grossman said.

Soldano and DePerno rose to fame closely allying themselves to Trump after the 2020 election and during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Meanwhile, Hoekstra’s ambassadorship came during the Trump administration. An MLive profile also puts Putman in support of Trump.

Whoever takes over as chair will have to figure out how to bridge that gap between the party loyal and the general electorate.

Despite their losses, however, Grossman said he doesn’t see the state Republican Party as undergoing an existential crisis, noting how close many of the legislative races were. In many instances, the top of the ticket, which featured Trump loyalists the party nominated for attorney general and secretary of state, fared worse than down ballot.

“Party organizational drama is worth following … but I think the die was kind of cast with the selection of the attorney general and secretary of state nominees,” Grossman said, “To have made those decisions really did kind of set the new tone for the party.”

As far as current leadership goes, co-chair Ron Weiser will not seek another term as leader. Co-chair Meshawn Maddock hasn’t yet announced her plans.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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