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Trump walks away with Michigan GOP convention, hard feelings linger

Former President Donald Trump swept Michigan Republican caucuses held Saturday in Grand Rapids. Trump’s victory and popularity among delegates belies a bitter rift in the GOP over a change in the state party leadership.

Trump won every congressional district overwhelming winding up with 97.7% of the vote. The only other contender, Nikki Haley, trailed with 2.2%.

But, while Trump remains very popular with Republicans, the state party is split between supporters of former chair Kristina Karamo and the new chair, former congressman Pete Hoekstra.

Some Karamo supporters boycotted the state convention and held their own breakaway caucuses in Houghton Lake and Battle Creek. Hoekstra said the results won’t matter to the state GOP or the Republican National Committee.

“It won’t impact what’s going to happen at the national committee, OK? It won’t impact what’s going to happen at the national convention in July,” he said. “But if they want to have a meeting, great, go. Go for it.”

Karamo was removed following a tenure marked by infighting and collapsed party finances. She abandoned her efforts to hang on to the position after a court ruled she had been properly removed.

Karamo originally called for the convention to be held in Detroit. Hoekstra moved the convention to Grand Rapids.

Charlevoix County Republican Chair Asuka Barden showed up in Grand Rapids even though she was denied a credential. She is from the First District in northern Michigan, which held its own caucus in Houghton Lake.

“I would like to be up there right now, yeah,” she said. “But we came down here to attempt to do what we have to do for the delegates, the members of our party and the voters of Charlevoix County and we were denied our voice.”

Barden said she is an ardent Trump supporter.

Trump won 39 delegates in the caucuses. That is on the heels of Michigan’s presidential primary held last week, which awarded Trump 12 delegates while Nikki Haley won four.

Michigan Republicans adopted a hybrid primary-and-caucus system to get around a problem created by the new state law that set February 27 as the primary date. That date violated the national GOP calendar, which would have cost the state GOP convention delegates.

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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