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Michigan GOP endorses Trump-backed election denier in secretary of state race

Republicans have endorsed Kristina Karamo, who has repeatedly cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election, in the race to become the state's top elections official.
Kristina Karamo, who is running for Michigan Republican party's nomination for secretary of state, speaks at a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on April 2, 2022, near Washington, Mich.
Kristina Karamo, who is running for the Michigan Republican Party's nomination for secretary of state, speaks at a rally hosted by former President Donald Trump on April 2 near Washington, Mich.Scott Olson / Getty Images file

Michigan Republicans on Saturday endorsed Kristina Karamo, a contender backed by former President Donald Trump, to be their party’s candidate for secretary of state.

Karamo, who has repeatedly cast doubt on the 2020 election results, is now all but certain to go up against the incumbent, Democrat Jocelyn Benson, in the closely watched swing state this fall.

In Michigan, the secretary of state is the top elections official, and their office works to administer and protect elections, meaning the endorsement could bear consequences on how the 2024 presidential election will be run, as well as other races in future years.

If Karamo wins the general election against Benson, she would have the ability to tip the scale in a tight race, the way Trump had asked Georgia’s secretary of state to do in 2020.

State Republicans also endorsed Matthew DePerno, another Trump-backed candidate who supports his baseless election claims, for attorney general.

Trump congratulated Karamo and DePerno in a statement Saturday, saying “Michigan is one of the worst on Election Fraud and corruption, and they will put an end to it.”

Michigan Republicans held the endorsement convention Saturday in Grand Rapids in an effort to draw early support for their candidates. More than 2,000 party delegates voted for nominees in all statewide races except governor and U.S. Senate during the event, and their selections will be formalized as nominees during the GOP's official nominating convention in August.

It was a major test of Trump’s endorsement power, and Karamo’s success indicates the former president's lingering grip on the state GOP.

Earlier this month, Trump held a rally outside Detroit with Karamo, whom he endorsed in September and has touted as a candidate who is “strong on crime, including the massive crime of election fraud.”

During the rally, the former president said the secretary of state race is “about making sure Michigan is not rigged and stolen again in 2024.”

The 36-year-old part-time community college educator has no prior experience in politics. She did, however, work as a Detroit poll challenger in 2020, and she is best known for making false claims about the last presidential election and the Capitol riot that followed months later — including that Trump won in Michigan and that left-wing anarchists had planned the riot.

Most of the midterm candidates backed by Trump support restrictive voting laws and his baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen.

Secretary of state races have traditionally been sleepy affairs, with lesser-known candidates who depend on their party’s nominees for governor or the Senate to carry them across the finish line. 

But Trump's involvement, coupled with right-wing enthusiasm on questioning the 2020 election, has ramped up attention and funding for those races in the battleground states that are expected to be hotly contested in 2024.

Last year, liberal PACs Let America Vote and End Citizens United launched a $7 million campaign to help elect Democratic secretaries of state in swing states with Trump-backed candidates.

President Joe Biden won Michigan by more than 154,000 votes in 2020, and Trump unsuccessfully challenged the results in court with his baseless claims of fraud. According to the Office of the Secretary of State, more than 250 audits confirmed the accuracy and integrity of the 2020 presidential race.