Macomb County Republicans file challenge with state GOP over raucous convention

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

The former leaders of the Macomb County Republican Party have filed a challenge with the Michigan GOP, asking state officials to declare Monday's county convention illegitimate.

The Thursday request, which suggested a lawsuit is possible, came three days after a raucous county convention in Shelby Township and nine days before the Republican Party's pivotal state convention, where delegates will endorse nominees for attorney general, secretary of state and other offices.

At the county convention Monday,  a group of Republicans took control of the meeting away from former Chairman Mark Forton and cast votes to remove him and his leadership team.

In a letter Thursday, Forton and his former Vice Chairwoman Lisa Mankiewicz claimed the votes violated party rules and that "guests" who weren't eligible to vote improperly participated.

"We demand that our MI GOP declare the county convention to not be legitimate," they wrote.

Their letter was addressed to the Michigan Republican Party, Chairman Ron Weiser, Co-Chairwoman Meshawn Maddock and members of the party's credentials committee.

The focus of Monday's county convention was supposed to be selecting delegates to the April 23 state convention. In their letter, Forton and Mankiewicz asked the Michigan Republican Party not to seat Macomb County's delegates at the state convention or to hold a new county convention.

The county party's executive committee "remains intact," Forton and Mankiewicz contended.

Jamie Roe, a Macomb County-based Republican political consultant who participated in the meeting, said the rules were followed. Forton’s team handled the credentials for the Macomb County convention, Roe said.

Macomb County has one of the largest pools of delegates in the state at the coming state convention and its votes are expected to influence the outcome of a competitive attorney general race, which features state Rep. Ryan Berman of Commerce Township, Kalamazoo lawyer Matt DePerno and former state House Speaker Tom Leonard of DeWitt.

"We have obtained legal counsel, and if the above issues are not remedied, we will be left to pursue the above issues in a court of law," Forton and Mankiewicz wrote.

The Michigan Republican Party's credentials committee meets Saturday.

"The credentials committee will meet in the coming days and will fairly evaluate and rule on all challenges," said Gustavo Portela, the state party's spokesman. "The MI GOP is confident in the outcome of their rulings."

Forton has faced backlash for publicly and repeatedly criticizing other Republicans. He has targeted those he doesn't believe are doing enough to support former President Donald Trump or to advance unproven claims of fraud in the 2020 election.

His opponents, which included 10th Congressional District Republican Chairman Stan Grot, pushed to remove him from power at Monday's meeting. They eventually chose Eric Castiglia of Sterling Heights, who says he hopes to unify the party, as Forton's replacement.

The gathering featured shouting, a police presence, an air horn used to disrupt discussion and chants of "lock him up" toward Grot.