Michigan GOP sets early convention, declines vote by hand count

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan Republican Party will hold an endorsement convention on April 23 in an attempt to unify behind nominees for attorney general, secretary of state and state Supreme Court four months earlier than normal.

The GOP's state committee approved the April 23 convention in a private meeting over the weekend. During the gathering, amid ongoing frustration by some party members  over the 2020 election, there was also a push to require the party to count its convention votes by hand instead of using electronic systems to tally the results.

The effort "failed resoundingly," said Sarah Anderson, spokeswoman for the Michigan Republican Party.

 Michigan State GOP candidates Tom Leonard, Lisa Posthumus-Lyons, Bill Schuette, Mary Treder Lang and Dave Dutch, left, to right, celebrate onstage together at the conclusion of the 2018 Republican State Convention in Lansing Saturday August 25, 2018.

Since Republican Donald Trump's loss in the presidential race, some within the Michigan GOP have questioned the software used to tabulate results across the state.

The endorsement convention plan for 2022 breaks with the party's past practice and comes as Republicans hope to unseat Democratic incumbents in key offices, including Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Normally, the party picks its nominees for secretary of state, attorney general and state Supreme Court at conventions in late August, giving its candidates just over two months to campaign as the party's official nominees. Democrats have previously held early endorsement conventions to provide more time for its nominees.

In 2018, Nessel won her party's 2018 endorsement race on April 15. Her GOP opponent Tom Leonard, then-state House speaker, didn't lock up the Republican nomination until Aug. 25.

In July, Jason Cabel Roe, then-executive director of the Michigan Republican Party, said party leaders supported moving up the endorsement process because they felt "voters deserve more than three months of compressed campaigning to evaluate the candidates on the November ballot."

"Candidates are also handicapped with a very short window of time to raise the funds necessary to get their message out to the electorate," Roe said.

Statewide primary votes will pick the parties' nominees for governor on Aug. 2, 2022.

However, nominations for secretary of state, attorney general, state Supreme Court and the state's education boards take place at party conventions. Three Democrats — Benson, Nessel and Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein — are expected to seek reelection in 2022.

Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra, a GOP nominee, is also expected to run for another term in 2022. But Republicans will have to select nominees to campaign against Benson, Nessel and Bernstein.

So far, two Republican candidates have formed committees to seek the nomination for attorney general, the state's top law enforcement official: state Rep. Ryan Berman of Commerce Township and attorney Matthew DePerno of Kalamazoo. Former House Speaker Tom Leonard of DeWitt is also expected to join the race.

Two Republicans have also formed committees to seek the nomination for secretary of state, the state's top election official: educator Kristina Karamo of Oak Park and Plainfield Township Clerk Cathleen Postmus.