Michigan GOP lawmaker announces secretary of state campaign

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Michigan Rep. Beau LaFave, a Republican from Iron Mountain, announced Monday that he will run for secretary of state in 2022, setting up a potential GOP convention fight for the party's nomination.

Former President Donald Trump has already endorsed Republican state committee member Kristina Karamo of Oak Park, who has gained prominence by questioning last year's election. In Michigan, the secretary of state is the top election official. LaFave's entry into the race demonstrates that at least some in the Michigan GOP aren't ready to unite behind the former president's pick.

Rep. Beau LaFave

"I am running for secretary of state," LaFave posted on Facebook on Monday morning. "Enough is enough! Our current Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson would continue making the 10,000,000 people of Michigan wait weeks and months to see her staff at local offices … after booking an appointment online. It is unacceptable.

"This, and many other issues, we will discuss over the next 13 months, is why I’m running to open the offices and restore integrity to the SOS."

Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson won her first term in office in 2018 by 9 percentage points over Republican Mary Treder Lang. Republicans in the state Legislature have criticized her approach to managing secretary of state offices during the COVID-19 pandemic and her move to an appointment-based system.

Benson has argued the Republican-controlled Legislature contributed to the backlog of appointments.

"I want to be abundantly clear," the Detroit Democrat said over the summer. "We’re making improvements in our department in the absence of any support from the Legislature. We’re going it alone, but we don’t have to.”

LaFave, 29, was first elected to the state House in 2016. He will leave the chamber at the end of 2022 because of term limits.

The Upper Peninsula legislator studied at Wayne State University Law School but put his pursuit of a law degree on hold to serve in the House, according to his website.

In a Monday interview, LaFave said he's the person in the secretary of state race who's best able to defeat Benson in the general election next year. He noted that he's held public office before, run successful campaigns for the state House and know hows to work with the Legislature to get bills passed.

"She is not in touch with the regular citizens of the state of Michigan who have events that come up, their car breaks down and they need to go into a secretary of state office to handle their business," LaFave said of Benson.

Cindy Berry, the clerk of Chesterfield Township, and Meghan Reckling, chairwoman of the Livingston County Republican Party, have also voiced interest in seeking the GOP nomination for secretary of state.

Trump endorsed Karamo on Sept. 7, saying the Oak Park resident is "strong on crime, including the massive crime of election fraud."

Karamofound the spotlight by raising concerns about what she saw working as a poll challenger in Detroit in November. She testified before the state Senate Oversight Committee on Dec. 1 and signed a legal brief that attempted to give the GOP-controlled Legislature the power to certify election results.

Asked if he believes the election was stolen from Trump, LaFave responded on Monday, "The election was stolen through four years of fake news, propaganda, bad headlines and sensationalism, as well as through the Trump-Russia hoax."

In November, Trump lost Michigan to Democrat Joe Biden by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points.

Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Benson's campaign, touted the incumbent Democrat in a statement on Monday.

"Secretary Benson is proud to have overseen the highest turnout and most secure election in our state's history, affirmed by more than 250 audits, and for having done in two and a half years what past secretaries have failed to accomplish for decades," Boyd said. "Motorists now have more options for doing business with the state in less time than ever before."

The Republican nominee is expected to be chosen by GOP delegates during an endorsement convention on April 23.

cmauger@detroitnews.com