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GOP members urge censure of Michigan party's executive director for election comments

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — A few dozen Republicans gathered Tuesday at state party headquarters to voice their frustration over Michigan Republican Party executive director Jason Roe's comment indicating former President Donald Trump "blew" the November election. 

The group delivered a resolution of censure to the party regarding Roe's comments on the Michigan Information & Research Services podcast last week when he said Trump "was seemingly doing everything he could to lose a winnable race."

Roe indicated on the podcast the party should move on from "complaining about how the election loss happened" and that time would "alleviate their frustration."

The gathering was not a "protest" and it wasn't a sign of division within the party, said Debra Ell, a precinct delegate from Frankenmuth and an organizer of Tuesday's rally.

Instead, she said, it was a reminder that remarks like Roe's represented a minority of the party while the majority are still loyal to Trump and believe there was fraud in the 2020 election. 

"This isn't division," Ell said. "We are the party."

Precinct delegate Debra Ell turns in a resolution Tuesday, May 25, 2021 at Michigan Republican Party headquarters in Lansing  seeking the censure of Michigan Republican Party Executive Director Jason Roe for comments he made indicating former President Donald Trump "blew" the November election.

The group also criticized GOP U.S. Reps. Fred Upton of St. Joseph and Peter Meijer of Grand Rapids, who voted in January to impeach the former president in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. There were boos from the crowd when Ell noted the party had invited former Vice President Mike Pence to speak at its September conference on Mackinac Island. 

The group criticized Roe for alleged support of the national popular vote in 2011. 

"He has set our strategy for moving forward for two years," Ell said of Roe. "That's his job as executive director. I don't think we want to go where he wants to take us."

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser defended Roe Tuesday, arguing he'd set up "the best prepared staff in the entire country focused on defeating Gretchen Whitmer and Democrats up and down the state."

"While there are a few activists who want to shrink our party and are focused on fighting with other Republicans, my team is focused on growing our party and fighting our true opponents, the Democrats," Weiser said in a statement. "That is where our focus will remain, and I’d encourage everyone to channel their frustration toward winning in 2022, not attacking each other. The Democrats are the only ones who benefit."

Weiser himself was under fire in March when he responded to party members' push for repercussions against Upton and Meijer with the suggestion that, "other than assassination," they could be voted out. 

At the same event, Weiser referred to Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson as the "three witches" who needed to be defeated in the 2022 election. He said they should be ready for "the burning at the stake."

Weiser later apologized for his comments.

Republican Michigan House candidate Mellissa Carone speaks at a gathering Tuesday, May 25, 2021 outside the state party headquarters in Lansing, where she said the November 2020 had been stolen.

Among the speakers Tuesday was Mellissa Carone, one of the most well-known critics of Michigan's 2020 election who appeared alongside Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani at a House hearing following the election. Carone was a contractor for Dominion Voting Systems at the TCF Center Nov. 3, where Detroit's absentee ballots were counted.

Afterward, Carone levied a series of unproven claims about wrongdoing at the TCF Center. More than 250 election audits, performed by a mixture of Republican, Democratic and non-partisan clerks, have since confirmed the accuracy of results across the state including Detroit.

Still, Carone began her address Tuesday with "I'm assuming we all know the election was stolen, correct?" and warned Republican leadership to "get with the program."

"You lost the entire state in 2018," she said. "Is this what we can expect from 2022? ...Trump Republicans are the majority now. So get on the train or get run over."

Articia Bomer, a Republican candidate for Detroit mayor, speaks at a gathering Tuesday, May 25, 2021 outside Michigan Republican Party headquarters in Lansing seeking the censure of Michigan Republican Party Executive Director Jason Roe.

Michelle Gregoire, a Battle Creek Republican who's participated in several protests against pandemic-era lockdown orders, saw her participation in Tuesday's rally as a commitment to grassroots Republicans. 

"We're working on pretty much taking our party back from the people who don't want to do anything," Gregoire said.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com