Trump-backed candidates see 'movement' in Michigan despite small rally crowd

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Mark Finchem, whom former President Donald Trump endorsed to be Arizona's next secretary of state, told a crowd in Michigan Saturday to "fire" lawmakers who were unwilling to consider claims of wrongdoing in the 2020 election.

Finchem, a Michigan native, was among a group of candidates backed by Trump who participated in a "Make America Great Again" rally in Lansing Saturday afternoon.

With temperatures in the low 30s, the crowd for the event was about 125 people. But speakers maintained that there's a pro-Trump movement unfolding in Michigan and stressed the need for their supporters to get involved in the 2022 midterm election.

R. Vance Patrick, left, of Southfield, laughs with Holly Spalding, of Milford, founder of Truckers For Freedom Michigan as they fire up the crowd, Saturday afternoon, March 26, 2022. Patrick is running in the 13th Congressional District as a Republican.

After the last election, Finchem, a Republican state lawmaker in Arizona, said he got a group of Arizona legislators together to listen to what he described as evidence of election fraud.

"We did it because we were being the champions of our constituents," Finchem said. "Now I hear ... that there are some legislators in this state that don't want to be your champion. Here's what I recommend you do: Fire them."

Democrat Joe Biden won both Michigan and Arizona over Trump in 2020 despite lingering and unproven claims of widespread election fraud. In Michigan, Biden won by 3 percentage points or 154,000 votes.

"If you want to put an end to what you're witnessing right now, you need to get schooled up. You need to support a candidate," said Finchem, whose campaign website says he was born in Detroit.

"You've got to support the conservative candidates," Finchem added later. "The time for the establishment status quo has come and gone."

Finchem served 21 years with the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, as a firefighter/paramedic and as a law enforcement officer, according to his campaign site.

When he retired, he moved to Arizona, where he was elected to the state Legislature. As a lawmaker, he's called for decertifying Arizona's 2020 election.

Joseph Adams, right, holds the U.S. flag as his wife, Jessica, left, both of Dearborn Heights, holds a gray U.S. flag meaning ‘no quarters will be given.’

In addition to Finchem, Matt DePerno of Kalamazoo, whom Trump endorsed to be Michigan's next attorney general, and Jonathan Lindsey of Coldwater, whom Trump endorsed for a seat in the state Senate, were among the speakers Saturday.

Jon Smith, secretary of the Hillsdale County Republican Party, said the purpose of the event was to help grassroots candidates at a key point before the August primary election.

"When you're in a campaign, it goes fast," Smith said.

Smith noted how cold it was for the outdoor rally and predicted there would be more people at a mixer that was scheduled to take place indoors later Saturday.

Trump himself will hold a rally in Macomb County a week later on April 2.

Lindsey is running for a southern Michigan seat in the state Senate. He was the first Michigan candidate Trump endorsed for the 2022 election. Lindsey said there's a "movement" happening in Michigan currently.

"We don't have a chance at secure elections going forward, especially for president, if these critical states don't have legislators who are willing to stand up for election integrity," Lindsey told the crowd.

Trump supporter Sam Harris, left, of Waterford, and others sing The National Anthem at the beginning of the MAGA MI Rally in front of the Michigan State Capitol, Saturday afternoon, March 26, 2022.

Currently, Michigan's House and Senate are controlled by Republicans. But Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson are all Democrats.

DePerno, who's in a race with two others for the GOP nomination for attorney general, also identified a "grassroots movement." But DePerno used his speech to call for unity within the party.

"Put aside your differences," DePerno said. "We agree with each other on 95% of the issues. Put aside your petty differences and get behind this campaign so we can win and beat Whitmer, Nessel and Benson."

Trump endorsed DePerno on Sept. 16.

cmauger@detroitnews.com