GOP Nominating Convention Seen As Messy, Poorly Planned
The day – which began at 9 a.m. – ended just before 8:30 p.m. and saw attorney general candidate Matthew DePerno and secretary of state candidate Kristina Karamo, both known to traffic in conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the results of the 2020 presidential election, clinch the Republican Party’s endorsement for their respective posts.
One of the largest issues with the day’s proceedings was the fact that, after a second ballot was needed in the attorney general, State Board of Education and two university board races, an issue arose in the voting process.
Out of this second vote, issues arose due to delegates improperly filling out their ballots. In the hall where voting occurred, two massive projector screens displayed the order of candidates and the office they were seeking.
However, the order of the candidates on the big screen did not match the order of the candidates on the ballot, leading for more than one delegate to cast their vote for attorney general in the spot initially meant for selecting a Michigan State University Board of Trustee candidate.
Then there was an issue with the voting machines reading the ballots themselves.
To first understand the issues, it was necessary to understand the procedures outlined for voting. On the first ballot for races where delegates could choose up to two candidates – the State Board of Education , University of Michigan Board of Regents and the Michigan State University Board of Trustees races – if someone only wanted to vote for one candidate, then they needed to vote for the candidate of their choosing then also vote to abstain.
That same rule carried over to the second ballot, though was even more pertinent due to the fact that, in some of the university races, there was only one candidate they could choose. Failing to properly mark the ballot and then to abstain would cause the machine to not read the ballot properly.
This affected the MSU race specifically as one candidate, Travis Minge, successfully garnered the more than 40 percent of the vote needed to not have to go to a second ballot. That left Mike Balow and former board member Melanie Foster on the ticket, though the ballot tabulator was programmed to need two bubbles filled in for that race by virtue of it being a two decision contest.
It was more the first issue than the second which caused distress among Republicans both in and outside of the convention.
Michigan Republican Party spokesperson Gustavo Portela insisted that the voting halt was a minor snafu.
"The reason we stopped is to investigate and bring both campaigns on and ask them the same question, if they believe this would ultimately change the results or create any issues. Neither campaign thought that was the case," he told reporters.
For longtime Republican operatives who have been tearing their hair out at the fraud allegations and urging the party to focus on 2022 and accept that former President Donald Trump did in fact lose to now-President Joe Biden in 2020, there was some schadenfreude at the balloting mess at Saturday’s convention.
That Meshawn Maddock, the state party co-chair, who was one of the faces of the "Stop the Steal" movement in the state after the 2020 election, insisted that it was a simple mistake, which officials corrected, was seen as particularly rich by some.
"Seems like a forensic audit is in order," longtime Republican strategist Greg McNeilly tweeted with sarcasm.
Cries from Mr. Trump’s most ardent supporters for a "forensic audit" – which does not exist – of the 2020 election were commonplace.
Rob Macomber, the deputy clerk in Kent County who worked on Republican campaigns for years but has been a stalwart against false election fraud allegations, said of the chaos over the vote at the convention: "Eh, human error in election administration happens and it’s often easily remedied," he tweeted. "What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like someone jackass could hijack an entire party by exploiting that mistake for personal benefit and, say, get a major nomination."
Former state Elections Director Chris Thomas, who assisted the city of Detroit in its election operations in 2020 and was the target of unfounded claims by top Republicans of rigging the election, had a one-word response to a tweet from a reporter about how many Republicans at the convention were noting the controversy came while the party has made election integrity a top issue.
"Oh?" he said.
There were also some tears. Former gubernatorial candidate John Lauve approached reporters nearly sobbing, angered at what he said was a disorganized and embarrassing showing for the party.
"I’m an aerospace engineer. I know how to organize things," Lauve said. "This is a joke … it’s an insult to people’s time we put into coming here to do this."
Former Republican Party Chair Laura Cox, whom current Chair Ron Weiser unseated in 2021, lambasted her successor and Ms. Maddock.
"This is what the MIGOP voted for: A rich, uninterested, and distant chairman. With that vote they get a crazy co-chair and several lazy hacks in the shop! Results are pretty evident today. A chaotic convention, disenfranchised delegates and no unity," she tweeted.
Ms. Maddock responded: "Put down your drink Laura. Winning isn’t something you would understand."
Others, privately, said this meant the party’s chances of winning either the secretary of state or attorney general races were extremely diminished. Ms. Maddock, Mr. DePerno, Ms. Karamo and MIGOP Chair Ron Weiser briefly made remarks following the convention though only Mr. Weiser took questions. Each expressed that, now that the convention was over, it was time for the party to coalesce behind the candidates and work to beat Democratic incumbents in November.
They then concluded the availability without allowing reporters to ask questions of either Ms. Karamo or Mr. DePerno.
Though, when Gongwer approached Mr. DePerno afterwards to specifically ask how he planned to unite voters behind him, given that he’s labeled a host of Republicans as RINOs – Republican in Name Only – he instead asked if he could autograph anything for the reporter and proceeded to look past her as if searching for more delegates with whom to converse.
The event also posed issues for members of the media as well. At the start of the day, press was given a small stage with 11 chairs, each of which sported the names and outlets of a select few individuals – though there were far more members present than there were chairs. One of two Gongwer reporters did have their name on a chair, however
There were also no tables, no outlets available (a camera crew from CNN ended up sharing a box of outlets with reporters present) and no WiFi unless reporters paid $90 for it. Another WiFi possibility existed, however there was no MIGOP event listed on the website for which to enter a code to gain access to the internet.
There was also the issue of the party giving a smattering of reporters press badges which declared them members of the "Whitmer Protection Team." That badge was not present when Gongwer reporters picked up their press passes early Saturday morning.
Michigan Climate Plan Calles For EV Incentives, Faster Renewable Transition
The plan stems from Whitmer’s vow to make Michigan carbon-neutral by 2050, with a nearer-term goal of reducing emissions 52 percent from 2005 levels by 2030.
It comes just a day after Whitmer called for a federal bailout of Michigan’s Palisades nuclear power plant, arguing that keeping the facility open beyond its planned May 31 closure date will preserve jobs and help Michigan live up to climate commitments by retaining a source of emissions-free electricity.
And it comes a day after Consumers Energy, one of Michigan’s largest utilities, committed to closing its last coal plant by 2025 while building out thousands of megawatts of solar capacity as it strives to drive down emissions.
Whitmer is banking on that kind of private sector action to help accomplish the plan’s goals. She’ll also need policy change within state departments, and cooperation from a Republican-led legislature whose leaders have rarely agreed with her on environmental policy issues.
A spokesperson for House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said Thursday he did not believe the speaker had yet seen the Whitmer administration’s plan. A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, did not immediately respond to an inquiry from Bridge Michigan.
In a statement Thursday, Whitmer referenced Michigan’s 2019 polar vortex, the 2020 mid-Michigan dam failures and last summer’s catastrophic metro Detroit floods as evidence that Michigan doesn’t have time to drag its feet on decarbonization.
“If we follow the steps outlined in the plan and collaborate with public and private sector partners, we can build a Michigan where every Michigander has clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and access to healthy, affordable local food.”
Among the plan’s highlights:
Environmental justice: Like President Joe Biden’s Justice40 initiative, the state climate plan calls for at least 40 percent of state money targeted to combat climate change to benefit disadvantaged communities. It also calls for job training and other efforts to prepare workers in Michigan’s combustion-focused economy for jobs in a post-carbon world.
Renewable energy: The plan envisions closing all of Michigan’s coal-fired power plants by 2030, and enacting a renewable energy standard of 50 percent. Enacting such a policy would require legislative action or cooperation from Michigan utilities. It also calls for investments in energy storage, and steps to limit the poorest Michiganders’ energy bills to 6 percent of their income.
Transportation: The plan calls for a 15-percent annual increase in “clean transportation options, such as public transit and electric vehicles. And it calls upon the state to create and fund an electric vehicle incentive program, adopt a clean fuels standard, and build infrastructure to support two million electric vehicles in Michigan by 2030.
The building sector: The plan calls for a 17-percent reduction in emission from homes and businesses by 2030, accomplished in part by adopting a state code that prioritizes renewable energy and efficiency in new buildings, and by weatherizing old, poorly-insulated homes to reduce their carbon footprint.
Industry: The plan calls for boosting Michigan’s current recycling rate of 35 percent to 45 percent by 2030, while halving food waste. And it calls for “clean innovation hubs” where businesses can research and develop new technologies to reduce industrial emissions.
Land and water: Borrowing from Biden’s “30 by 30” conservation plan, the Whitmer plan calls for Michigan to conserve 30 percent of its land and water by 2030. The state and federal governments own about a fifth of Michigan’s landmass, and some of those lands are actively logged or mined. Whitmer’s plan also calls upon the state to support “climate-smart” agriculture, such as planting cover crops and using less fertilizer.
The plan does not lay out a timeline or cost estimate for accomplishing its goals, and it does not address how Michigan will cope with floods, heat waves, species declines and other climate disruption that are already baked-in because of past and current fossil fuel use.
The Michigan Farm Bureau did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday from Bridge.
Mike Alaimo, environmental and energy affairs director at the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which represents business interests, said portions of the plan could provide “meaningful steps toward improving Michigan’s sustainable and circular economy,” but called the overall proposal “far from perfect.”
“This plan needs to work for all communities, rural, suburban and urban, as well as all businesses,” Alaimo said. “The next essential step is developing and carrying out an effective, inclusive implementation strategy.”
He said chamber officials are still reviewing the proposal’s finer details.
Charlotte Jameson, chief policy officer for the Michigan Environmental Council, called the overall plan “really bold and in line with what I think we need.”
She praised the plan’s emphasis on public transit, “something our state has historically not been great on, and a real critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to eliminating transportation sector emissions.”
But Jameson said she had reservations about the plan’s vision for the building sector, which relies heavily on energy efficiency rather than centering electrification as “the key lynchpin to decarbonizing the building sector.”
Widely celebrated by many environmental groups, the plan drew a more measured response from some environmental justice advocates.
A statement from the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice called it a step in the right direction, but contained a wish list of items left out of the plan, from more focus on climate adaptation to stronger policies protecting heavily-polluted neighborhoods from new industrial expansion.
“We think it’s a good start,” council member Keith Cooley told Bridge. “That said, there’s some things that still need to be done.”
As for whether the plan’s existing goals are reachable given the likely need for bipartisan support during a time of deep political division on climate change, Cooley said, “that’s where the horse-trading comes in.”
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy must publish annual reports documenting progress toward the plan’s goals.
Michigan Appeals Court Rules Against DePerno Effort to Revive Debunked Election Fraud Case
It’s the latest ruling from a Michigan court turning back legal efforts by supporters of President Donald Trump who continue to claim — without proof — that there was widespread misconduct in the 2020 presidential election.
The three-judge Michigan Court of Appeals panel issued an order Thursday indicating it agreed that a lower court was right to dismiss DePerno’s lawsuit, pointing to a series of issues with both DePerno’s legal tactics and pleadings in a case that drew national attention.
"(DePerno’s client) merely raised a series of questions about the election without making any specific factual allegations as required. Because plaintiff ‘failed to disclose sufficient facts and grounds and sufficient apparent merit to justify further inquiry …’ the trial court properly granted summary disposition," the judges wrote in the unanimous opinion.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson heralded the decison. Nessel’s office argued against DePerno on behalf of the state, telling the appellate judges the trial court correctly dismissed DePerno’s lawsuit.
“This decision joins a growing number of court rulings that continue to uphold the legitimacy and accuracy of our elections," Nessel said in a statement.
"As we have remained from the very beginning, my office is committed to preserving the integrity of our democratic system. The panel’s ruling is additional reinforcement in this important fight.”
Benson has repeatedly defended the efforts of the Antrim County clerk and others who’ve faced unsubstantiated allegations of fraud or misconduct.
“This dismissal once again affirms not only the integrity and accuracy of the 2020 election results, but that those claiming otherwise will not be able to use our legal system as a vehicle for furthering their misinformation and conspiracy theories," Benson said in a statement.
"The court’s ruling is a heartening reminder that despite ongoing efforts to dismantle our democracy and make it easier to overturn future elections, the data, the facts, and the truth are on our side.”
The appeals court did determine the trial court dismissed the case for the wrong reason, saying even though DePerno’s case was doomed and he could not get the relief he wanted, that the lower court improperly decided his claims were moot.
But the appeals court determined, "we will not reverse a trial court’s decision when it reaches the right result, even if for the wrong reason."
In a statement, DePerno seized on this portion of the appellate court’s opinion while vowing to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.
"I appreciate the appeals court agreeing that the lower court erred and look forward to taking this fight to the state Supreme Court. I will continue to fight for election integrity at the highest levels and that includes as attorney general of Michigan," DePerno said in a statement emailed Thursday afternoon.
An initial error in reporting the election results in the rural northern Michigan community initially showed President Joe Biden defeated former President Donald Trump. But the clerk quickly fixed the problem, rightly showing Trump won the heavily conservative area and affirmed those results with a hand recount.
But DePerno, representing local resident William Bailey, filed a lawsuit in a local court, making a series of sweeping allegations of fraud. With a judge allowing DePerno and a team to conduct "forensic imaging" of ballot tabulators, the case became a rallying cry from Trump and supporters who incorrectly argued the 2020 election was stolen.
The trial court eventually dismissed DePerno’s case. DePerno appealed, suggesting the court’s decision was premature.
But the Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court’s ultimate decision, although it suggested its rationale for dismissing the case was slightly flawed. The appellate court ultimately determined DePerno and his client do not have a right to perform their own audits, as DePerno suggested while pleading before the court recently.
"The statutory language does not allow private citizens to conduct independent audits, and we are not permitted to read words into the plain language of a statute," the appellate order states.
The court doubled down on the idea that DePerno and his client failed to present evidence of voter fraud, or how the alleged fraud specifically violated anyone’s rights.
"(DePerno’s client) alleged in the complaint that he was deprived of his constitutional right to vote in the November 2020 election due to Antrim County’s ‘rampant and systematic fraud,’ which resulted in his vote not being ‘valued.’ However, (DePerno’s client) failed to plead allegations to support that he was intentionally and arbitrarily discriminated against … or that Antrim County failed to implement the minimum procedures necessary to protect the fundamental right of each voter," the opinion states.
"Rather, as already stated, (DePerno’s client) made generalized assertions to the trial court that election fraud occurred and that he should be provided with discovery in order to determine the extent of the fraud. Additionally, (DePerno’s client) did not allege that he was treated differently than similarly situated individuals, which is necessary to establish an equal protection claim."
The court also rebuffed DePerno’s attempts to argue the Secretary of State’s audit of the Antrim County results violated the Constitution, noting DePerno never raised that issue at the trial level. It was one of many new, factual claims DePerno asked the appellate court to consider in the case — generally, lawyers are not permitted to introduce new arguments at the appeals level if they were not first presented at the trial court level.
DePerno previously billed the hearing as a key step in his ongoing campaign to allege rampant misconduct in the 2020 election. He’s one of three Republicans vying for the party’s endorsement at a statewide convention this weekend.
DePerno’s running on a platform that heavily features his Antrim County lawsuit, broadly vowing to continue to litigate the legitimacy of the 2020 election. That has earned him Trump’s endorsement in the race.
His opponents — former House Speaker Tom Leonard and state Rep. Ryan Berman — have criticized his efforts. Leonard has accused him of essentially misleading grassroots activists and Berman has repeatedly noted that DePerno’s allegations of voter fraud in Antrim County are incorrect.
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