LANSING, Mich. (MIRS News) – Former attorney general candidate Matt DePerno would “absolutely not” unify the Michigan Republicans as party chair and would struggle in the position because of his inability to raise significant sums of money, according to former state House Speaker Tom Leonard.
Appearing on Michigan’s Big Show starring Michael Patrick Shiels, Leonard noted that DePerno, to whom he lost the party’s nomination earlier this year, spent “over a year demonizing other Republicans, and then was shocked when he couldn’t raise money,” Leonard said.
DePerno announced his run for Michigan Republican Party (MRP) chair on Nov. 14, with current Chair Ron Weiser opting not to run again after serving three non-consecutive terms.
Leonard served as Speaker from 2017 -2018. He was the Republicans’ attorney general nominee in 2018 and lost 49.04% to 46.26% to now-Attorney General Dana Nessel. DePerno lost earlier this month to Nessel 53.15% to 44.55%.
Leonard said his opinion isn’t personal, but based on DePerno’s fundraising record.
During the 2022 election cycle, DePerno’s campaign finance reports showed he raised a total of $1,128,796.58 for his AG campaign, which was dwarfed by Attorney General Dana Nessel, whose pre-general statement showed $5,437,349.35 raised.
Leonard said a successful party chair would need to raise between $30 million and $40 million to successfully bring the party back to baseline.
In addition to a candidate that can raise money, Leonard said it’s essential to choose a chair that can unify the “broke and broken” party to get it back on track, and “it’s not going to be him.”
“This is about looking forward,” he said. “If we do not start uniting and we do not start nominating candidates that can unite this party with a positive message and can raise money to win in November, this party is going to be doomed.”
Target Insyght numbers from Ed Sarpolus found that 216,858 Republican-leaning independents elected not to vote on Election Day.
If they showed up, Leonard said the House could have seen a five-to six-seat Republican majority, and the Senate a two-to three-seat edge. Instead, both are in the minority.
A widespread decision to stay home is in part due to the selection of former President Donald Trump-endorsed candidates like DePerno, who did well in the primary but “just couldn’t perform come November.”
Kristina Karamo is another one that moderates just couldn’t get behind, he said, in part because of bizarre comments and like claiming women performing yoga are doing satanic rituals.
They just couldn’t raise money or unify the party, he said, a growing problem for Michigan Republicans.
But despite the lack of Trump-endorsed candidate successes in Michigan, Leonard said Trump could still win in 2024 based on a poor performance by President Joe Biden that signals a need for change.
But Leonard said there are other Republicans that may give the party a better chance in 2024, and “I don’t want to take any chances.”
Linda Lee Tarver, a 2022 candidate for state Board of Education and former Michigan Civil Rights Commissioner, said she believes Trump has done the heavy lifting to secure another nomination in 2024.
“My 401K loved him,” she said.
And though Tarver said she’s remaining neutral in the race for MRP chair, she said she isn’t concerned about the potential success of any particular candidate.