Michigan duo gains influence after pushing to overturn Michigan election

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — A husband and wife who have been at the center of the campaign to overturn Michigan's presidential election are poised to see their political influence among state Republicans grow in the coming weeks.

Some members of the party are happy about the rise of longtime activists Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, and Meshawn Maddock, while others contend their actions since Nov. 3 deserve repercussions, not promotion.

Meshawn is expected to become co-chair of the state GOP in February.

Matt and Meshawn Maddock opened an unofficial Trump campaign field office in Walled Lake. Others have complained of a yard sign shortage.

The couple's efforts to intervene in the state's election results culminated when they participated in pro-President Donald Trump demonstrations in Washington, D.C., that spiraled out of control Wednesday and eventually led to a mob storming the U.S. Capitol. In a Thursday statement, Meshawn condemned "the violence and breaching of the Capitol in the strongest possible terms."

But before the chaos broke out, she tweeted that the large group gathered was "the most incredible crowd and sea of people I’ve ever walked with." She also shared a video of the crowd on Instagram, in which a voice in the background can be heard yelling, "We need to march on the Capitol when we're done here and drag these people out of power."

In a Tuesday interview, Meshawn told The Detroit News she had helped organize participation for thousands in this week's events and didn't feel it would be right to not attend herself as well.

By Wednesday night, multiple Michigan Republicans had publicly called for Ron Weiser, who's running unopposed for chair of the state party with Meshawn as his co-chair, to replace her on the ticket. Weiser should choose a more "unifying" candidate to run with, said Northville Township Trustee Chris Roosen, who previously served on the Republican state committee for two years.

"I admire him," Roosen said of Weiser. "It’s time for him to dump seditionist Meshawn Maddock. I suggest replacing her with Laura Cox in a unity ticket to rebuild our state party for future victory."

He noted that eight years ago, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney won his suburban township with 58% of the vote. In November, Trump received 46%. His community has rejected "that type of divisiveness," Roosen said.

But the Maddocks appeared to maintain support among other GOP activists, some of whom weren't willing comment Thursday. Meshawn was a key surrogate for Trump in last year's election, and Rep. Matt Maddock was reelected in November with 59% of the vote in his Oakland County district.

Asked to respond to Meshawn's social media posts about the protests in Washington, D.C., Weiser, a University of Michigan regent and former party chairman, didn't address them in a statement.

"I strongly condemn those people who turned into a mob and breached the Capitol after what was supposed to be a peaceful protest," Weiser said. "Those who broke the law should be held accountable."

He added, "It is time for Republicans to rest, regroup and focus on defeating the Democrats in 2022."

'Supposed to be a peaceful event'

Both Matt and Meshawn Maddock didn't respond Thursday to requests for interviews.

In a statement, Meshawn said, "The rally was supposed to be a peaceful event and the people who became a mob and broke the law should be held accountable."

For weeks, leading up to Wednesday's protest, the duo has been involved in efforts to overturn or delay the certification of President-elect Joe Biden's victory in Michigan. Biden won the state by 154,000 votes, but Trump supporters have pushed unsubstantiated claims of widespread election fraud.

Matt was among four GOP state lawmakers primarily leading the charge in the state Legislature to overturn Michigan's election, according to two sources with knowledge of the discussions.

A group of Republican electors walk towards the Michigan State Capitol to try and gain entry to cast their ballots in Lansing, Mich. on Dec. 14, 2020.   The electors are casting their votes today at the capitol for the president and vice president.

Matt was one of 12 Michigan lawmakers who signed a brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the justices to require legislative certification of Michigan's presidential election. State law doesn't provide for that, and a federal judge has described the contention as "flat-out" wrong. He was also among 11 House Republicans who signed a letter this week that asked Vice President Mike Pence to delay certifying battleground states' results.

On Dec. 14, Matt and Meshawn were among a group of Republicans who tried to enter the Michigan Capitol to cast their own electoral votes for Trump. They were turned away by security.

However, according to a document filed in a court case, Meshawn was one of 16 Michigan Trump "electors" who signed a certificate of votes for the president, who lost the state's election. The document said the GOP electors had "convened" in the Capitol, but they weren't actually allowed inside the building.

A document signed by 16 Michigan Republican "electors" supporting President Donald Trump.

Hank Choate, chairman of the 7th Congressional District Republican Committee, was among the GOP participants on Dec. 14. He said he had been asked to come to Lansing and attempt to send an alternative slate of electors to Congress.

Choate was critical of the "riot" that he said had broken out in Washington, D.C., but he wasn't critical of the Maddocks for being there to protest.

"I have to believe that all of those people who were there may have been there for various reasons," Choate said.

Matt, president of the A-1 Bail Bond Agency, has been involved in Michigan politics for years.

He was among the founding members of the West Oakland County Tea Party, according to his official website. In 2014, he attempted to unseat a sitting Republican state senator, Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake. Kowall won by 6 percentage points. In 2018, Matt Maddock was first elected to the state House.

Democrats want Maddock censured

Multiple Michigan House Democrats have called for disciplinary action against Rep. Maddock. Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, D-Livonia, said he needs to be censured. Pohutsky claimed he had "instigated the people who overtook the U.S. Capitol."

Rep. Rachel Hood, D-Grand Rapids, tweeted an image of Rep. Matt Maddock speaking on Tuesday. He was wearing a jacket that appeared to feature the state seal.

"He must be censured and have committees stripped," Hood tweeted.

Meshawn Maddock speaks to a large crowd at  the Trumperware event in Flushing, Michigan on Saturday, April 13, 2019. Max Ortiz, The Detroit News

Gideon D'Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said there would be no discipline or investigation.

Tony Daunt, executive director of the Michigan Freedom Fund, didn't address Meshawn by name in a Thursday statement. His organization, one of the most influential conservative groups in the state, has previously dismissed "reckless conspiracy theories" about the election.

"Those who participated in this charade should take a good hard look in the mirror and decide if their behavior serves the interests of moving on from this sad chapter and defeating Democrats in 2022 and beyond, or if it will be a costly distraction for months and years to come," Daunt said.

Michigan Republican activist Dennis Lennox said Meshawn "needs to withdraw as the (unopposed) candidate for co-chairman of the Michigan Republican Party."

"If she doesn't, the convention should suspend the rules and elect a candidate from the floor. Period," Lennox said.

But Meshawn told the political news service MIRS that "hell no" she wouldn't step back from running for co-chair. In a Dec. 23 email to his supporters, Weiser said, "There is no one in the state who has done a better job of recruiting, training and inspiring the grassroots than Meshawn."

Current Michigan Republican Party Chairwoman Laura Cox announced Wednesday that she would not seek reelection, paving the way for Weiser and Meshawn to be unopposed. The Republican Party's state convention is planned for Feb. 6.

cmauger@detroitnews.com

Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.