Convention chaos: Snubbed Michigan County GOP chairman leads Macomb delegate swap

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LANSING, MI — Michigan’s Republican convention began in chaos on Saturday as Mark Forton, the recognized former Macomb County GOP chairman, brought a local fight to a statewide stage.

Minutes into the convention, Forton supporters issued a challenge to the 199 Macomb County delegates. Dueling Republican factions held county conventions in Macomb this month after Forton was elected county chairman in April but refused to hand over the reins.

Catch up: Rejected county chairman wants delegates to fight at Michigan GOP convention

The Michigan GOP and Co-Chair Ron Weiser recognized Macomb’s opposing slate of delegates for Saturday’s convention, which were led by Eric Castiglia. But a vote of delegates from the other 82 counties rejected that list on Saturday and swapped it for Forton’s, which he said is a rebuke to Weiser and a victory for the GOP “grassroots.”

“They know he took that power and they don’t want that to happen to them,” Forton told MLive.

In a process that took more than two hours, county delegates upstairs at the Lansing Center stood and raised their credentials in support of Forton’s slate of delegates. Needing more than two-thirds of the vote, Forton’s challenge was successful, as an overwhelming majority of people stood up to support Forton’s list as MIGOP’s preferred list.

Castiglia, in a short debate before the vote, argued that Forton did not support GOP Attorney General nominee Matthew DePerno — who will be confirmed later Saturday — because Forton withdrew the county’s GOP endorsement two weeks before the August 2 primary.

“We gave Matt DePerno a win in April, for President Trump and all the America First patriots in this room,” Castiglia said.

Macomb County, north of Detroit, is the third largest county in Michigan. Saturday’s delegate swap caps a week-long battle for legitimacy within the county party, but Forton believes it’s the start of a bigger leadership change within MIGOP.

“In less than 90 days, we have a gubernatorial race, we have all these races, and all those people who care up there on that podium are getting rid of their own party’s conservatives.”

He criticized MIGOP for not doing enough to support, elevate and fundraise for gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon in the weeks following his victory over incumbent Democratic Governor Gretchen Whimter in November.

“She’s not going to be easy to beat at all, because they left her alone for two years,” Forton said. “And now we, the base, they have to go out and try to beat her without any support from these guys. So MIGOP will change very soon.

A challenge from Dixon’s running mate Shane Hernandez is expected later Saturday from Ralph Rebandt, who lost the primary by more than 35 points.

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