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Michigan man wants to form Patriot Party as GOP alternative

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Inspired, in part, by former President Donald Trump, a Zeeland man and Republican precinct delegate wants to officially form a new Patriot Party in Michigan as an alternative to the GOP.

"I’m sick of the Republican Party," Brian VanDussen, 44, said this week. "So are a lot of other people."

Similar efforts are underway in other states as Trump backers voice frustration with the Republican Party, contending that party officials haven't done enough to support the former president, who left office Jan. 20.

President Donald Trump boards Marine One as he leaves the White House Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021.

VanDussen said Republican officials didn't do enough to investigate claims of fraud in the presidential election, which Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden. Many of the assertions of fraud are unsubstantiated, and others have been proven false.

He also alleges Republicans get elected and then turn out not to be conservative.

"There’s just no backbone, no principles, nothing to stand on," VanDussen said.

The group's website lists small government, term limits, individual freedoms and keeping "America great" as the party's platform.

Trump’s campaign has disavowed the Patriot Party. And the former president has no plans to break from the Republican Party to pursue a third party, an adviser told Bloomberg in January.

However, that hasn't stopped some of his supporters. Efforts to form Patriot Parties have started in Florida, Wisconsin and other states, according to media reports.

VanDussen, who is also considering running for governor in 2022, is in the early stages of trying to form a Patriot Party in Michigan. Such a delegation would bring official recognition from the Secretary of State's Office and help give the party's candidates ballot access.

To achieve it, the party's supporters have to collect more than 42,000 petition signatures from registered voters, 1% of the total number of votes cast for candidates in the last gubernatorial election. Under state law, the petitions must be signed by at least 100 registered voters in each of at least seven of Michigan's 14 congressional districts.

On Thursday, VanDussen's petition form — not the signatures themselves, which haven't been collected yet — was tentatively on the agenda for the Board of State Canvassers for initial approval. But the board didn't receive the form in time, said Jonathan Brater, Michigan's elections director.

Form approval is usually the first step in the petition-collection process.

VanDussen said Thursday he is hoping to get the form on the agenda for a future meeting.

His plan is to organize supporters to help gather signatures, officially form the party and then field candidates in local races, said VanDussen, a longtime Republican who has worked in residential construction for 20 years.

"It’s only going to take a few victories until we’re putting the Republican Party on notice," VanDussen said.

A petition document aims to form a new Patriot Party in Michigan. It was provided to the Michigan Department of State in  February 2021.

Michigan has seven recognized political parties: Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, U.S. Taxpayers, Green, Natural Law and Working Class. Six of them fielded candidates for governor in the 2018 election. The non-major party candidates got about 3% of the vote.

The leaders of third parties voiced skepticism about the Patriot Party actually forming in the state.

 "I don't think it's feasible at all," said William Mohr, chairman of the U.S. Taxpayers Party.

"We already have a party that aligns probably 90% with the beliefs and understandings of the Patriot Party," he said, referring to the party he leads.

Mohr estimated that if the Patriot Party paid professional signature gatherers to collect its petitions, it could cost $250,000 to hit the required threshold.

"It's a very, very difficult task," he said.

Mohr is a former Republican who joined the U.S. Taxpayers Party in 2005. He said the GOP seems to be "breaking apart" with divisions between Trump's ardent supporters and longtime Republican Party members frustrated by the former president's actions.

In recent weeks, multiple county-level Republican Parties have approved censure resolutions against U.S. Reps. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, and Peter Meijer, R-Grand Rapids Township, because they voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

"The division is so great at this point," Mohr said. "I just don't see it coming back together."

But Gregory Stempfle, chairman of the Michigan Libertarian Party, said he doesn't believe Republicans will allow their base to be splintered by the formation of an alternative party.

Having a third party with some well-known names who hold elected offices could help more people understand the challenges lesser-known parties' candidates face, Stempfle said. Those include a lack of media attention and not getting invited to attend campaign debates, he said.

Stempfle said he doesn't believe it would be hard for Patriot Party supporters to collect 42,000 petition signatures. He said the effort could cost about $100,000.

"It’s really a question of how the general voting public and how the media will treat them," Stempfle said.

cmauger@detroitnews.com