The GOP nomination process in Michigan appears to be heading for chaos

As early in-person voting began Saturday in Michigan, the battle for GOP control in a key battleground state plunged Republicans there deeper into a political maelstrom, with rival factions poised to potentially hold two-way nominating conventions.

As if things weren’t already confusing.

In just over a week, the state will host traditional primaries one day, and a caucus-style congress a few days later. Now, it seems, there could actually be two conventions, in different parts of the country, each claiming legitimacy.

Former President Donald J. Trump heads to Michigan Saturday night, with a campaign rally in Waterford Township, about 30 miles northwest of Detroit. While he made it clear which faction he supported, as well as the national party, it did little to dissuade a Trump-style pro-choice denier trying to hold on to power.

The conflict, which is already being fought in state court, appears to be only gaining momentum.

Pete Hoekstra, recognized Wednesday by the Republican National Committee as the party’s rightful chairman after his election last month, said he is moving forward with plans to hold a statewide nominating convention March 2 in west Michigan.

But Kristina Karamo, defying the RNC’s decision that she was properly removed as party chair earlier in January and Trump’s endorsement of Mr. Hoekstra, also indicated she would continue to host the convention on the same day, for the same purpose, but in Detroit.

At the convention, 39 of Michigan’s 55 Republican presidential delegates will be up for grabs. The other 16 will be decided during the Feb. 27 state primary, which includes at least nine days of early voting. The hybrid process, new this year, was adopted by Republicans to comply with RNC rules after Michigan’s Democratic governor moved the primary date.

“We are the Michigan GOP,” Mr. Hoekstra said in an interview Friday. “Kristina Karamo is not.”

Mr. Hoekstra, a former member of the House of Representatives who served as Mr. Trump’s ambassador to the Netherlands, called Ms. Karamo’s March 2 gathering a “meeting.”

“They don’t run a convention,” he said.

Ms Karamo, who gained notoriety for her claims of fraud in the 2020 elections, was elected party president last year after losing her bid for secretary of state in 2022. She did not respond to several requests for comment on Friday, but insisted on social media and in a recent statement from the state party’s email account that she is still in charge.

“The Gray Poupon Good Ole Boys Club hates that I can’t be controlled and that we disrupted their corruption club” Ms. Karamo wrote on Friday X. “Our movement is not going away. We are bringing the Renaissance of the Righteous to the Republican Party.”

Ms. Karamo’s critics said the Michigan party under her leadership was shrouded in secrecy and struggling with money.

On Thursday night, Ms. Karamo tried to talk about her leadership status at a Republican rally in Oakland County, near Detroit. A video taken by The Detroit News she showed her annoyance as party leaders selected delegates for next month’s state convention. Some shouted that she was “irregular” and that she was no longer the president of the party.

The conflict also played out in the western part of the state, where rival Republican factions in Kalamazoo County held caucuses at the same time Thursday.

Inside a community center in Scotts, Mich., a small town near Kalamazoo, a faction affiliated with Ms. Karamo selected 44 delegates to send to the March 2 convention in Detroit. About 25 miles away at the 12th Street Baptist Church in Kalamazoo, another faction selected 44 delegates to send to the convention that Mr. Hoekstra organizes.

“It’s crazy,” Fred Krymis said in the church lobby.

At the event aligned with Karamo, a projector displayed the logo of the county’s Republican Party. The sign stated that outside observers were not allowed to film the proceedings due to internal party lawsuits. A county sheriff’s deputy was on duty watching for trespassers.

In a brief interview outside the event, Rod Halcomb, the group’s chairman, described Ms. Karamo as a “legitimate” Michigan Republican leader and said he believed the RNC’s recognition of Mr. Hoekstra was “the wrong decision.”

But at another rally, Kelly Sackett, the group’s president, said it was time for the party to unite behind Mr. Hoekstra.

“That’s the only way we’re going to take our state back,” she said of Republicans, who do not control a single statewide office.

The division at the state level is reflected by two Kalamazoo groups, which are embroiled in a series of lawsuits accusing each other of defamation and hijacking the party’s name and likeness.

Matthew DePerno, whom Ms. Karamo defeated for the party chairmanship last year, is part of the Kalamazoo faction that has coalesced around Mr. Hoekstra. An unsuccessful candidate for attorney general in 2022, he was accused last year of hacking the 2020 campaign equipment, aimed at helping Mr. Trump reverse his loss in Michigan.

He reflected Thursday night that party turmoil could boil over at this summer’s Republican National Convention.

“I believe there will probably be two sets of delegates sent,” he said of the Michigan delegation.

The RNC did not immediately respond to requests for comment on what would happen if rival slates of Michigan delegates show up at the convention.

Mr. Hoekstra said he has no illusions about the party he wants to lead.

“I understand and know that these divisions exist,” he said. “I’m not going to let them dominate, you know, our activities and our process for the next eight months. Our job is to win the election.”

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