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Judge rules against Kristina Karamo in messy Michigan GOP leadership dispute

A county judge's order prohibits Karamo from conducting party business. It's a victory for Pete Hoekstra, who has been recognized as the new state chair.
Michigan GOP Holds its Kristina Karamo addresses the delegates at the Michigan Republican Convention on Feb. 18, 2023. to Elect Party Chair
Kristina Karamo at the Michigan Republican Convention in February 2023.Sarah Rice for The Washington Post via Getty Images file

A Michigan court has thwarted Kristina Karamo’s efforts to remain in control of the state Republican Party, issuing a preliminary injunction Tuesday that bars her from conducting party business.

Kent County Circuit Judge J. Joseph Rossi issued the decision hours before polls closed in the state’s presidential primary and days ahead of a Michigan GOP convention that will determine how delegates for this summer’s Republican National Convention are allocated.

Rossi’s order also could end a long dispute between Karamo, who was ousted as chair in a vote by party insiders last month, and former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who had been selected as her replacement. The sides have been on a collision course that could culminate in a crisis Saturday if Karamo goes forward with plans to host a rival convention.

The ruling Tuesday, though, “prohibits” Karamo from “holding herself out as Chair of the Michigan Republican State Committee,” “calling any meeting of the Michigan Republican State Committee” and “conducting, or attempting to conduct, any business in the name of the Michigan Republican State Committee or the Michigan Republican Party.”

Rossi made his order, which grants a request from anti-Karamo operatives, retroactive to Jan. 6 — the date he determined Karamo had been properly ousted as chair.

The Republican National Committee had already sided with Hoekstra, recognizing him last month as the rightful chair and ruling that Karamo had been removed properly.

Hoekstra, whose bid to take over as state party chairman also had been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, said in a statement shortly after Tuesday’s ruling: “The MIGOP State Committee, the RNC, President Trump and now a court of law have all reviewed the January 6th meeting and there is unanimous agreement that the former Chair was properly removed, and I was elected as the new Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party.

“It is time to unite and move forward with the business delivering the state of Michigan for our Party’s presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump,” he said.

Representatives for Karamo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Karamo has refused to leave the post, even after Trump and the RNC weighed in against her. She has maintained access to the Michigan GOP bank, email and social media accounts, hamstringing Hoekstra's efforts to take full control of the party.

Rossi's order Tuesday also prohibits Karamo from accessing party bank accounts and "engaging in any communication, including on social media, that purports to be issued on behalf of the Michigan State Republican Committee or the Michigan Republican Party."

Karamo, the GOP’s losing candidate for Michigan secretary of state in 2022, faced criticism from party insiders and activists, including onetime supporters. Her detractors believe that she failed to deliver on promises of transparency and reform and that poor financial and fundraising choices had mired the party in money troubles.