The election conspiracist Kristina Karamo, overwhelmingly defeated last year in her bid to become Michigan secretary of state, was chosen on Saturday to lead the state Republican party for the next two years.
Karamo defeated a 10-candidate field dominated by far-right candidates to win the position after a party convention that lasted nearly 11 hours.
In 2022, the former community college professor lost her secretary of state race by 14 points after mounting a campaign in support of Donald Trump’s lie that his 2020 election defeat was the result of electoral fraud.
Karamo inherits a state party torn by infighting and millions in debt. She will be tasked with helping win back the legislature and flipping one of the most competitive US Senate seats, while helping a presidential candidate win the battleground state.
Addressing delegates, Karamo said “our party is dying” and needs to be rebuilt into “a political machine that strikes fear in the heart of Democrats”.
Karamo rose to prominence following the 2020 election when she began appearing on conservative talk shows claiming that as a poll challenger in Detroit, she saw “ballots being dropped off in the middle of the night, thousands of them”.
The decision to elect Karamo, who will lead through the 2024 elections, solidifies the hold far-right activists have on the state party after sweeping losses last year.
It took three rounds of voting at the convention in Lansing for delegates to pick Karamo over the former attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno, who was endorsed by Trump.
Contemplating a field dominated by grassroots activists running on far-right messaging, the former Republican congressman Fred Upton said: “We lost the entire statehouse for the first time in 40 years, in large part, because of the top of the ticket. All deniers. It turned off a lot of voters.”
The party may take “a cycle or two to correct itself and to get out of the ditch that we’ve been in for the last couple of years”, Upton said.
The Michigan Republican party has been led by figures including the former education secretary Betsy DeVos and the current national Republican chair, Ronna McDaniel.
Trump won Michigan in 2016 but Democrats now control all levels of power for the first time since the 1980s. In 2022 they won both houses of the legislature and defeated Republicans by significant margins for governor, attorney general and secretary of state.
Longtime donors withheld millions as Republicans grew increasingly loyal to Trump. Tudor Dixon, a Trump loyalist who lost for governor to Gretchen Whitmer, said her campaign was hurt by the state party not having as much money as in the past.
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