A Patriot’s Reflections on the 2022 Michigan GOP State Convention and a Tribute to the Women Who Have Given Their All to the Conservative Movement

A guest post by Joe Brandis, President of Michigan Citizens for Election Integrity (MC4EI.com)

The 2022 Republican State Convention is now in the history books, but it struck me how well the process actually worked. I was an elected precinct delegate, Oakland 11th, and was on the floor when all of the excitement took place in the Lansing Center. It was contentious and took longer than everyone would like, but in the end, I believe the results reflected the will of the delegates.

Delegates negotiate with MI GOP Chairman Ron Weiser.

Macomb County had two competing delegations to be seated. The roots of the controversy were the removal of Mark Forton as Chair at an April 2022 Macomb County Convention and Eric Castiglia being voted in as the Chair for the convention. In addition to being the chair for this convention, there was a move to make Castiglia the County Chair and replace Mark Forton. There were now two competing factions, both claiming to be the Macomb County Republican Party with two separate Chairs. In August, there were two Macomb County Conventions, one Castiglia and one Forton. They both elected slates to the State Convention, and there you have the background for the conflict of two competing slates to be seated at the State Convention.

MIGOP delegates are seated by district at the state convention on Saturday. Photo credit Darlene Dowling-Thompson

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At the Republican State Convention, there was, loosely speaking, the Castiglia delegation, which was recognized and seated by MIGOP, and the Forton delegation, which was not recognized and sitting in the gallery. Emotions ran high, and there was a lot of yelling and booing from the floor of the convention. A motion was raised to recognize the Forton group as the delegation to be elevated to replace the Castiglia-led delegation. The Chairman of the State GOP, who chaired the Convention, proposed to override any consideration of this debate. After consultation, there were 30 seconds allowed for each side to present their case, which really did not adequately clarify the issues.   The Convention Chairman had been supportive of the Castiglia delegation, but the overwhelmingly expressed dismay of the convention delegates prevented him from unilaterally deciding this issue without the full input of the precinct delegates from all over the state.  “We the people” sent a loud message to the party leadership. It was then voted on, and 88% of the delegates voted for Forton’s delegates. It is interesting that several delegates that were removed from the Castiglia delegation were then put back in as delegates in the Forton group.  I am not in Macomb County, but I have talked to people I know on both sides of the issue. It could be that both sides of the argument are right. It could be that Forton needs to be removed because, among other things mentioned, is the fact that he withdrew his and the vice chair’s personal endorsement of Matt DePerno, the GOP candidate for Attorney General. Also, it has been widely reported that Forton was supporting a third-party candidate for Governor. The problem was that it is not clear that the removal was legally done. However, there might have been a legal loophole to do it. I think many delegates at the convention were not passing judgment on Forton or Castiglia but on the process of how Forton was removed.

The grassroots had a floor victory. This surely spelled trouble for electing Shane Hernandez as LG (Lieutenant Governor), even though he was the pick of Tudor Dixon (the GOP Gubernatorial candidate) and endorsed by DePerno and Trump.  There were still rumblings among the delegates that maybe someone would be a better selection. However, it went to a vote, and Hernandez easily won with 80% support.

MI GOP Lt. Gov candidate Shane Hernandez (L) and MI GOP Governor candidate Tudor Dixon celebrate their victory at the MIGOP convention in front of thousands of delegates.

I was asked how this could happen. I believe that a large contingent of those voting to elevate Forton’s delegation did it because they believed the process of removing him as Chair was flawed. My thought on this was though he may have been removed at the April Convention according to the letter of the law (which is still up for debate), it just did not seem to be done in a fair and transparent manner.  If in the call to the April Macomb County Convention, it was specifically written in the agenda that a vote would be held to remove Mark Forton, it may have been perceived as fair. To my knowledge, this was not done. If it had, it would have given the delegates the opportunity to make sure their competing sides were in attendance for the vote.  Instead, there was confusion as there were two Macomb County conventions held, and delegates were not sure which was the correct one to attend. So, a lot of delegates at the August Convention felt that the process of removing Forton as the Chair was not fair.

This same delegation then voted overwhelmingly to support Shane Hernandez for Lieutenant Governor.  There are several reasons why I believed this happened:

  1. Hernandez was selected by Tudor Dixon, and it should be her choice to win or lose with him.
  2. Endorsed by Matt DePerno and Trump.
  3. The alternative candidate would probably not strengthen the ticket as he ran for Governor and only received 4% of the primary vote
  4. If the delegation installed a different Lieutenant Governor and the ticket lost, it would be hung around the neck of the grassroots/conservative movement.

In the end, this whole controversial debate demonstrated that “Yes,” the grassroots are able to think rationally and strategically and control the instincts to burn down the house.

Thinking back on where this started with the grassroots/conservative/tea party movement, we have come a long way in Michigan. Twelve to fifteen years ago, it probably would have been 80% establishment and 20% conservatives at GOP state party conventions. That appears to be completely flipped. So, where do we go from here? I think we need to look back to the past and decide where we go in the future.

There was quite a sphere of conservative influence in the state led by the Lakes Area Tea Party, Michigan Conservative Coalition, and Michigan Trump Republicans. We talk about the founding fathers of our nation, but these groups have three founding mothers – Meshawn Maddock, Marian Sheridan, and Rosanne Ponkowski.

Rosannę Ponkowski, Meshawn Maddock, and Marian Sheridan

These ladies, with some other support, built a movement that began in Oakland County but spread throughout the state and helped produce the results at the August 2022 GOP Convention. Meshawn is now the Co-Chair of the MIGOP, Marian is MIGOP Grass Roots Chair, and Rosanne is Vice Chair of the Oakland County Republican Party. These three patriots have worked extremely hard for this movement.

Marian Sheridan addresses the crowd at a massive protest against Governor Whitmer’s tyrannical COVID shutdown orders that killed thousands of businesses. The MCC group organized a protest to shine a light on the plight of hairdressers and barbers whose livelihoods were being stolen by Whitmer’s unconstitutional orders.

There is a saying that the wind blows highest at the top. I think that all of us deserve praise and criticism for what we say and do.  However, I think we need to temper the criticism with the praise that these women deserve. Meshawn especially has been getting a lot of critical comments. Is this by a small percentage of the movement that amplifies the message through chats and social media? Could it be that 80% support most of what she does but don’t stand up for her against the onslaught of negative criticism? I can tell you that the Establishment Swamp would like nothing more than to have Meshawn, Marian, and Rosanne go away. Is this what we really want? Call me crazy, but with Meshawn, we have someone that can call President Trump, and he will pick up the phone.  At the April 2022 endorsement convention, when Karamo and DePerno were confirmed, I didn’t see any of the other politicians standing on stage uniting the party, but I did see Matt and Meshawn Maddock up on the stage supporting them.

Republican grassroots leaders Rosanne Ponkowsi of MCC, MI GOP Co-Chair Meshawn Maddock, and Trump-endorsed candidate for MI Speaker of the House wait near the tally board for the final results to appear. 

Many women would have packed up their bags and gone home, withdrawing from the fight, but these women didn’t.  They have persevered because they are worried about their children and grandchildren, given the national spiral downward from the tried-and-true principles espoused by the founding fathers.

But then, in the words of Nancy Reagan: “A woman is like a tea bag.  You cannot tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

The question before us is, where does this movement go in the future?  Are we going to be like the founding fathers and work through compromises that enable us to grow the conservative movement, or are we going to imitate the French peasants who stormed the Bastille shouting their heads off as they participated in taking off the heads of their fellow citizens? It may feel good to tear something down, but then it must be rebuilt. Let’s support those that laid the foundation of what we have and continue to build on what was started many years ago.

“Criticizing to destroy is easy, thinking in order to build is much more difficult to achieve” Tariq Ramadan

Grass root patriots in Michigan and all over America will prove that it can be done!

In the final analysis, Margaret Thatcher said it best:

“I am in politics because of the conflict between good and evil, and I believe that in the end good will triumph.”

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