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Trump Gets His Fix in Michigan

Election deniers win GOP endorsement for attorney general and secretary of state.
April 25, 2022
Trump Gets His Fix in Michigan
Former President Donald Trump endorses Matthew DePerno (R), who is running for the Michigan Republican party's nomination for state attorney general, during a rally on April 02, 2022 near Washington, Michigan. Trump is in Michigan to promote his America First agenda and promote several Republican candidates running for office. (Bulwark composite / Photos by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

If this is the last time you ever hear the names Matt DePerno and Kristina Karamo, you’ll be lucky. They are the conspiracy-driven Trump-picked candidates for Michigan attorney general and secretary of state that the state GOP endorsed as candidates in its convention on Saturday.

Reasonable people would have to hope DePerno and Karamo get blown out in the general election and are never heard from again. Their outlandish insistence that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump has led to considerable fractures within the Michigan Republican Party. As such, they’re viewed as longshots who will be unable to unite the party, win over independents, and beat the incumbent Democrats, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

That said, DePerno and Karamo were never really considered serious candidates, yet they managed to clinch their races, thanks to Trump’s backing. And in a midterm year in which Democrats are struggling nationally, it would be unwise to write off any of these races.

To understand what DePerno and Karamo victories would mean, all one has to do is imagine what would have happened in 2020 if Sidney “Kraken” Powell had been in charge of Michigan’s elections. Except, well, Powell has more on-the-job experience than either of these two.

Both DePerno and Karamo are relative political newcomers; their primary qualifications are their total commitment to Trump’s election lies. They became “Stop the Steal” stars in the contentious period after November 3, 2020, making a name for themselves in MAGA circles.

And Michigan’s nominating rules benefit those who are most popular with the most partisan of party activists. Unlike in most other states, Michigan Republicans choose their candidates for down-ballot races through an “endorsement convention” for party delegates rather than a primary election for voters. It was that endorsement convention that was held in Grand Rapids this weekend. Pending any major event, DePerno and Karamo will receive the party’s formal nominations in August.

Matt DePerno is a Kalamazoo tax lawyer who became an election-fraud activist in 2020. At the time, he was hardly a well-known figure in state politics; he had represented a politician who faced criminal charges for attempting to cover up an extramarital affair that came to light in 2015, but aside from that didn’t make headlines.

That changed when DePerno promoted allegations that Dominion Voting Systems machines in Antrim County were supposedly “corrupted.” That’s not what happened; in fact, simple human error resulted in the release of mistaken 2020 election results for the county, a problem that was announced by the morning of November 4 and rectified by November 6. But DePerno filed lawsuits based on his bogus stolen-election claims, and to this day still promotes the claims on his website:

We have the proof that voting machines used in the 2020 elections can be compromised and votes easily transferred from one candidate to another. We can flip votes at the tabulator/precinct level. We can flip votes at the county level. The American people are losing their voice for the future of our democracy. We must fight together for free and fair elections.

DePerno’s pushing these sorts of election lies prompted Michigan Republicans leading the state senate’s oversight committee to issue a report debunking such allegations last June. The report dismantled DePerno’s claims and stated:

The Committee closely followed Mr. DePerno’s efforts and can confidently conclude they are demonstrably false and based on misleading information and illogical conclusions.

Of course, DePerno’s willingness to continue his court battles, despite being continually proven false, is exactly what Trump liked in him. A Michigan appeals court decisively rejected another one of his lawsuits last Thursday, and DePerno said he planned to take his case to the Michigan Supreme Court.

DePerno has also promised that if elected, he will prosecute and imprison Nessel, the state’s sitting AG.

No surprise that Mike Lindell appeared alongside DePerno to promote him on Saturday:

Kristina Karamo, a community college instructor with a master’s degree in Christian apologetics, first blipped on MAGA radar screens in 2020 when, while serving as a volunteer “poll challenger,” she claimed to have seen a poll worker enter illegal votes. Karamo then became a self-styled “whistleblower” and made the rounds on right-wing media. In the following weeks, she supported Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s efforts to cancel votes in the swing states Trump lost; said it was “Antifa posing as Trump supporters” who were responsible for the violence on Jan. 6th; attended a QAnon convention; and went to Arizona to support “audit” leaders such as Wendy Rogers.

This, mind you, is the person Republicans want to be Michigan’s top elections official.

Beyond her views on the 2020 election, there is little else to say about Karamo’s political experience or political views. Reporters have documented her thoughts on some social issues based on a podcast she produced before she became a candidate:

And Michigan Democrats are eager to point to Karamo’s comments that police officers and others who testified to the House Jan. 6th Committee were “actors and actresses,” that Republicans who don’t support her are “traitors,” and that Democrats are “Satanic.”

As tempting as it might be, don’t write off these candidates and their beliefs as flukes. Michigan Republicans sought them out and supported them precisely because of their ideas.

We know this to be true because Trump-loving Michigan Republicans gave candidates questionnaires to fill out, full of leading questions—such as:

  • Define a RINO in your own words. If they vote against our Republican Party president, defy our Party Platform and have deceived those that put them in office, do they belong in the Republican Party leadership? What should be done?
  • What do you believe happened at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021? Were you there?
  • What do you believe happened on Election Day, November 3, 2020?

The questionnaire also includes an entire section on “Election Integrity” wherein candidates are simply given three choices: “yes,” “no,” or “maybe.” Here are some of those multiple-choice questions:

  • Do you believe there was fraud in the 2020 Election?
  • Do you support a full forensic audit and investigation of the 2020 Election?
  • Should Dominion Voting Machines be removed?
  • Should Election Officials be held accountable (prosecuted and removed for violations)?

You don’t have to guess how they answered.

DePerno’s and Karamo’s written answers are eye-opening.

In his responses, DePerno promised to investigate not only Nessel, but the sitting secretary of state and governor, Democrats Jocelyn Benson and Gretchen Whitmer, as well. He named prosecuting their “unconstitutional and criminal acts” one of his top five priorities.

When he was asked to say where he was on Jan. 6th, DePerno offered something unexpected. He said that on that day, “I was in the State Department briefing Mike Pompeo’s staff om [sic] how the election was stolen. (NOTE to reader: don’t tell the Feds!).”

Is that a joke? A little light trolling? It’s so very hard to tell with these candidates. Also, why were candidates being asked about their whereabouts and thoughts about what happened that day? Was there extra credit being given to those who were in Washington alongside the rioters? Saying anything critical about the violence that day, without blaming Antifa, would have certainly been disqualifying.

Karamo, in her written answers, said she believed RINO Republicans “should be legally removed from their position.” She also said, “Republicans need to be more dogmatic about fighting the culture wars, which trickles down everywhere” and that efforts to shut down talk about election conspiracies were “not only is Unconstitutional further citizens concerns [sic] that there is a massive cover-up happening, that threaten future elections.”

Although she was not in Washington on Jan. 6th, Karamo wrote:

I believe that the overwhelming majority of people there, came to make their voices heard regarding the evidence of fraud in our elections. How the chaos ensued at the capitol, I have my suspicious [sic] of what happened, and I believe we are being lied to regarding the events, also that the current hearings are a farce. However due to the prevalence of lies surrounding the events, and false blaming of Trump, I believe that if the average American learned the truth, it would terrify them.

She did not say what that supposed “truth” might be.

She also wrote:

I believe based on personal experience and other overwhelming evidence that the there [sic] was massive fraud in our elections that is being covered-up. That this fraud was a well-organized sophisticated process, deploying multiple methods, to deny the American people their voice.

For all this DePerno and Karamo have been richly rewarded. Michigan Republican Party co-chair Meshawn Maddock endorsed DePerno, breaking with the norms of staying out of primaries and convention contests.

The major factor in their success at the convention on Saturday was Trump’s seal of approval. In a February 21 letter to Michigan delegates endorsing DePerno, Trump said he was “fully invested” in Michigan and “eager to see this state flip red once again.” And Trump has followed through: He has made himself available for Mar-a-Lago fundraisers, tele-townhalls, and rallies for the candidates.

All because Trump believes one thing.

“This choice is not just about 2022,” Trump said while talking up DePerno during one of the events. “This is about ensuring the state of Michigan cannot be stolen from Republicans in 2024 or ever again.”

Translation: If one MAGA conspiracy theorist were to occupy the state’s highest law enforcement office and another were the state’s top elections official, it’s easy to imagine Republican electoral losses being overturned. The fix would be in.

Amanda Carpenter

Amanda Carpenter is an author, a former communications director to Sen. Ted Cruz, and a former speechwriter to Sen. Jim DeMint. She was formerly a Bulwark political columnist.