Mitchell cofounds group of anti-Trump independents, Republicans pitching third party

Former U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell is among a group of 150 independents, and current and former Republicans founding a group that's threatening to form a breakaway party if the GOP doesn't part ways with former President Donald Trump.

The group, A Call For American Renewal, rejects what it calls extremist elements within the Republican Party. The GOP has become increasingly defined by its allegiance to the former president, who continues to falsely claim the 2020 election was stolen.  

"A Call for American Renewal is a rallying cry for pragmatists everywhere," the group declares on its website. "Our nation’s future should not be dictated by a single person but by principles that bind us together."

Organizers of the new group, whose other Michigan co-founders include longtime GOP consultant Jeff Timmer, are calling for a return to the founding ideals of the Republican Party "or else hasten the creation of an alternative." Among the principles it lays out are the preservation of a democratic republic, constitutional order, rule of law and the truth. 

U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-Dryden, speaks on the floor of the House of Representatives on April 23, 2020. Mitchell is among a group of 150 independents and Republicans founding a group that's threatening to form a breakaway party if the GOP doesn't part ways with former President Donald Trump

"I think President Biden is right that our country needs a healthy two-party system, and the Republican Party is not healthy right now," said Mitchell, who represented a congressional district including part of Macomb County and the Thumb.

"The extremes in both parties, the right and left, are pulling this country off a cliff. The majority of the country is in the middle, and they want to see problems solved.

"We have a mess on our hands, and we ought to be talking about it, and not Trump," he added.

Mitchell, a former business executive in Dryden, disaffiliated with the GOP in December as he retired from Congress. He's been named as a potential gubernatorial candidate, though he's said he won't run for public office again. 

The alliance includes other high-profile officials including former Govs. Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey and Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania, former U.S. Reps. Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania and Denver Riggleman of Virginia.

Also listed are former Cabinet officials including John Negroponte, who was the first director of national intelligence, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, all of whom served under George W. Bush.

The effort includes a political action committee, as well as nonprofit entities formed under 501(c)3 and 501(c)4 of the tax code, Mitchell said.

American Renewal intends to raise money for messaging and intends to engage in elections at both the federal and state levels in 2022 and '24 by supporting candidates that embody its principles, he said. 

"It doesn't have to be just Republican candidates. It may be some independents. It may be some Democrats," he said.

The formal launch of the group comes the same week as the House GOP Conference voted to depose their No. 3 leader, U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who has vocally rejected Trump's claims that he won the election and voted to impeach him over his role in instigating the Jan. 6 insurrection. 

The conference voted Friday morning to replace Cheney with a Trump loyalist, Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York.

"Enough of the drama. Enough of the turmoil," Mitchell said. "America has problems it needs to solve."

Two Republicans enter SOS race

An Oak Park community college professor has entered the Republican primary to run against Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson in the 2022 election. 

Kristina Karamo, a Wayne County Community College professor of public speaking and college orientation, formed her candidate committee in March but announced her candidacy on Thursday. 

She'll join fellow Republican candidate Cathleen Postmus, the Plainfield Township clerk who formed her committee for the position in December.   

In her announcement, Karamo, who also is on the Michigan GOP state committee, said she is running "to remove corruption" from the elections and the Secretary of State's office. 

On her website, Karamo claimed the state’s “insecure election systems” were exploited to steal the election from Trump. She alleged the same unproven claims in affidavits used in two cases the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider. 

“Citizens across Michigan have a strong interest in investing their time and money to fix what did not work well for voters in 2020,” Karamo said in a statement. “I am running to join forces with the many patriots across Michigan who are fighting to protect our liberties now, and protect our liberties for future generations.”  

Postmus also notes on her website the recent election shows a “need for increased transparency and accountability in how we run our elections.”

President Joe Biden won Michigan by 154,000 votes over Trump. More than 250 post-election audits conducted across the state by 1,300 Republican, Democratic and non-partisan clerks confirmed the results of the election, Benson announced earlier this year.

Shaun Whitehead, an Oak Park city councilman, also formed a committee in March to run against Benson. However, his campaign said Monday that Whitehead is actually running to retain his seat on city council and an issue with paperwork mistakenly indicated he was running for secretary of state.

Benson, a Detroit Democrat, has not announced whether she will run in 2022. She won the 2018 election with nearly 53% of the vote.

Bipartisan ratings 

A new analysis by the nonpartisan Lugar Center and Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy rated Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, and Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Holly, as the most bipartisan lawmakers in the Michigan delegation last Congress.

Lugar's Bipartisan Index ranked Peters as the third-most bipartisan Democrat in the Senate and the 15th most bipartisan overall. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, ranked No. 58 overall in the Senate index.

Slotkin ranked 65th in the Bipartisan Index among House lawmakers overall, followed by GOP U.S. Reps. Tim Walberg of Tipton (No. 93) and Fred Upton of St. Joseph (No. 94).

The Lugar index measures how often a lawmaker introduced bills that drew co-sponsors from across the aisle and how often they co-sponsored bills introduced by the other party.

Designer rolls out 'Gretch' pillow

The creator of a pillow featuring an image of Dr. Anthony Fauci has created one featuring the image of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer

Whitmer's "Fouch on the Couch" pillow is visible in several TV appearances broadcast from her home.

The $49.99 "Gretch on the Bench" pillow will include Whitmer's comments on a hot mic during the 2020 Democratic National Convention, when Whitmer said, "It's not just Shark Week... It's Shark Week, Mother------."

Designer Erick Sanchez launched a new pillow in honor of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, known as 'Gretch on the Bench.'

"I'm pretty sure Nicolas Cage will try to steal this pillow because Gov. Whitmer is a national treasure," pillow creator Erick Sanchez said. "This art piece reflects Gretchen's bold leadership and will bring Lansing right to your living room."

Sanchez also created a "Sanders on your Sofa" pillow depicting the viral photo of unimpressed, mitten-wearing Sen. Bernie Sanders at President Joe Biden's inauguration.

U.S.-Canada appointments

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appointed U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga, R-Holland, and Brian Higgins, D-New York, to co-chair the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, which is devoted to dialogue between elected leaders in both nations on bilateral issues. 

Reps. Jack Bergman, R-Watersmeet, and Andy Levin, D-Bloomfield Township, will also serve on the working group. Issues the coalition discusses include trade, border management, Great Lakes, security, and economic opportunity, according to Huizenga's office.