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Trump wins all delegates at stake in Michigan GOP convention amid leadership battle

Mar 2, 2024, 8:37 PM

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night ...

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a primary election night party at the South Carolina State Fairgrounds in Columbia, S.C., Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

(CNN) — Former President Donald Trump won all 39 delegates at stake at a Michigan Republican convention Saturday, as officials there sought to move past a leadership battle that has split the state party into rival factions.

The party chairman, former Ambassador and Congressman Pete Hoekstra, presided in Grand Rapids after days of disputes over where the convention would happen — and who would be in charge.

Tensions over the leadership battle were on display throughout the day, as convention organizers sent an email linking to its results that also included a post from Trump’s Truth Social account.

“I look forward to working with Ambassador Pete Hoekstra as Chairman of The Republican Party of Michigan. He is a winner who was a GREAT Congressman from Michigan and, likewise, did a fantastic job as Ambassador to the Netherlands. Pete will make The Republican Party of Michigan GREAT AGAIN, and has my Complete and Total Endorsement to be its Chairman — HE WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN!” the post read.

The Michigan Republican Party’s state committee tapped Hoekstra as the new party chair in January after ousting former Chairwoman Kristina Karamo, an election denier and failed 2022 secretary of state nominee. Karamo sued, but a Michigan judge this week rejected her bid to retake power. The Republican National Committee also moved to recognize Hoekstra as the state party chair.

Amid the leadership struggle, Karamo and her aides had planned a convention in Detroit. Hoekstra, after taking over as party chair, announced one in Grand Rapids. Some delegates were confused over which to attend, and some Karamo allies in the 1st and 4th congressional districts broke off to hold their own gatherings Saturday.

Those in attendance in Grand Rapids acknowledged the toll the squabble had taken on the state GOP.

“Everyone’s emotions are really high,” said Hima Kolanagireddy, a delegate and candidate for RNC committeewoman.

She said she believes the party will unite “once the dust settles down” behind an effort to win in 2024. But she acknowledged the deep rift within the state GOP.

“It’ll take some time. There is a lot of hurt,” Kolanagireddy said. “And I think we will find our way, because at the end of the day, we are all Republicans. We need to unite in order to win.”

Rob Steele, an RNC committeeman, predicted that support for Trump — which was strong across all factions of the split state party — would help bring Republicans together.

“I think there’ll be noise but we’ll be ready to move forward,” Steele said.

Hoekstra on Saturday repeatedly invoked Trump to showcase the former president’s support for his chairmanship.

The Saturday meeting in Grand Rapids comes five days after Trump bested former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in Michigan’s primary. The state awarded its delegates through a split process, with 16 up for grabs in the primary and the remaining 39 decided on Saturday; three went to the winner of each of the state’s 13 congressional districts.

Support for Trump dominated the Grand Rapids convention, with delegates sporting “Make America Great Again” hats and candidates for committee spots touting their history of support for the former president.

Outside of Trump, though, the divisions among Republicans were apparent. Flyers that read “Kristina KARAMO is our Chair” and “Pete Hoekstra is an Imposter” floated around the convention. The flyers said they were “paid for by “Patriots who believe in THE TRUTH!”

Ken Beyer, the 4th District chairman, told CNN on Saturday that he and other Karamo allies will seek to strip Hoekstra of his power.

“What we’re doing is we’re retreating back to our counties and we’re going to start replacing people who sided with Hoekstra right now … and we’ll replace them with new delegates,” he said.

Beyer also said Trump’s support for Hoekstra won’t end the division over control of the state GOP.

“I love Trump. Our district voted 100% for Trump. However, we’re not a cult,” Beyer said. “He’s not always given good advice. And I have to stand firm against him maybe getting bad information from somebody or — I don’t know why he makes the decision he makes. I know he wants to win Michigan.”

Hoekstra himself ticked off to reporters all the backing he had as Michigan Republican Party chairman.

“No. 1, the state committee acted. The RNC certified that what the state committee did was legitimate. Donald Trump has endorsed me. The congressional delegation has endorsed me. The state House and Senate leaders have endorsed me. And now you have the court making their determination. The appeals court making their determination,” Hoekstra said.

Clark Harrington, a delegate for Michigan’s 2nd Congressional District, described the chairmanship of the GOP as “kind of in disarray” but said “the vote for Trump is unanimous.”

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Trump wins all delegates at stake in Michigan GOP convention amid leadership battle