LANSING — Nearly a year out from November 2020, the general election remains the dominating issue for Republican candidates across Michigan. The strong conviction to prove baseless conspiracy theories meant to undermine public trust in the electoral process looms over races at every level – from school board all the way up to the top of the ticket.

New reporting from Detroit Metro Times shows the lengths the crowded, 12-Republican gubernatorial primary field have gone to as candidates jockey to show their commitment to pursuing audits and anti-voter legislation in order to prolong doubt in the legitimacy of our elections. The piece also details the rift this fraud crusade is opening up within the MIGOP. 

See excerpts below from Detroit Metro Times on the already-evident unity problem brewing amongst Michigan Republicans and read the full report here:

Detroit Metro Times: Michigan Republicans Clash Over Trump’s Future in the Party
By Steve Neavling

The dilemma facing Republicans is that, in many races, outspoken Trumpian candidates are likely to have an advantage in primary elections, when the most passionate and partisan voters tend to cast a ballot. But in the general election, those candidates are less likely to appeal to voters who have been turned off by Trump’s lies and his brash, combative demeanor.

“The Republican Party as a whole in the state of Michigan is really trying to figure out how to thread this needle,” Charles Shipan, professor of political science at the University of Michigan, tells Metro Times. “The more extreme the candidate that emerges from the primary, the less likely he or she will win in the general election. Yet primaries bring out people who feel the most passionate about the issues, and that is more likely than not to be from the Trump side of the party. Republicans are in a tough position.” […]

Despite what’s at stake and the warning signs that embracing Trump may be a losing strategy, Republican Party leaders on the state and local levels have so far supported candidates who are devoted to the former president, have pushed lies about the election, and have adopted far right positions.

In July, Trump loyalists who control the state party pushed out Michigan GOP Executive Director Jason Roe because he refused to indulge baseless conspiracy theories about election fraud and said Trump “blew” the election.

“Up until the final two weeks, [Trump] seemingly did everything possible to lose,” Roe told Politico in November. “Given how close it was, there is no one to blame but Trump.”

Meshawn Maddock, the co-chair of the Michigan GOP, is an outspoken Trump loyalist who peddled falsehoods about the election and organized busloads of Michigan residents to travel to Washington, D.C. for the Jan. 6 rally that devolved into a violent insurrection. In May, Maddock suggested on Facebook that Michigan should secede from the U.S.

On the local level, many GOP leaders are still peddling conspiracy theories about election fraud. […]

County Republican officials play an outsized role in shaping the party’s future because they recruit and promote candidates to run for office and help get out the vote. In Michigan, those officials are still making Trump the face of the GOP’s future. […]

So far there are at least 10 Republican gubernatorial candidates. The frontrunner is former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has tried to dodge questions about voter fraud. But in September, Craig said he planned to meet with the former president in hopes of getting his endorsement.

If Craig doesn’t embrace Trump, he risks losing the primary election. But by embracing Trump, Craig risks turning off voters in the general election.

“Craig is talking about going to Mar-a-Largo to pay homage to Trump,” Timmer says. “He won’t be the nominee of the Republican Party unless he tells crazy, lunatic lies. Sure he can win the primary that way, but not the general election. That’s the paradox.”

In a secret recording obtained by Metro Times, Craig told his supporters during a campaign kickoff event last month that he supports a full audit of the presidential election because there are “valid concerns out there.”

Other top Republican candidates for governor have cozied up to Trump and are spreading lies about the election. Ryan Kelley, an Allendale Township planning commissioner, was among the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol and climbed on scaffolding outside the building.

Garrett Soldano, a Kalamazoo chiropractor who built his name opposing Whitmer’s COVID-19 restrictions, is a devoted Trump supporter. As of late July, he raised more money than his opponents.

Tudor Dixon, a 44-year-old former news host, is backed by campaign operatives with close ties to Trump, including Susie Wiles, who is helping oversee the former president’s political operations, and Taylor Budowich, an advisor to Donald Trump Jr.

Dixon told The Detroit News that Trump’s support is critical for Republican candidates.

“I think that we would be kidding ourselves if we didn’t say that his endorsement will absolutely frame every race in America,” Dixon said. “He’s the leader of the party right now.” […]

On Mackinac Island in late September, more than 1,200 Republicans attended a three-day conference, where they bantered about election fraud and winning seats in 2022. Upton and McBroom weren’t in attendance.

At a dueling event less than 100 miles away, about 2,000 conservative activists gathered in Antrim County, where Trump claims voting machines were rigged against him. Soldano and other speakers continued to demand an audit of the election and criticized Republicans who have not. 

Despite the obvious rift, Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser insists Republicans are united. […]

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