WASHINGTON — Michigan Republicans endorsed Kristina Karamo, a first-time candidate who has spread lies about the 2020 election, to run all of the state’s elections as the party’s candidate for secretary of state.
Karamo is one of at least 17 election deniers running this year to take over elections in 14 states — three of whom have the explicit backing of former president Donald Trump. Trump endorsed Karamo in September and featured her at a rally in Michigan earlier this month. She is the first to win her party’s endorsement for the job, but several others could clear that hurdle as primary election season gets underway.
The first-time candidate was endorsed by the Michigan Republican Party at its convention Saturday; the state chooses candidates for several top offices by convention rather than by primary vote. The party will officially nominate Karamo in August, though the Detroit News reported that new rules make it tough, but possible, for another candidate to challenge her between now and then.
Karamo will attempt to unseat Democratic incumbent Jocelyn Benson, who has spent the last two years combating disinformation about 2020 as secretary of state. Benson has compared the possibility of voters handing control of Michigan’s elections over to Karamo to “putting an arsonist in charge of the fire department.”
She beat out three other candidates for the GOP endorsement: a state representative and two township clerks who are responsible for running local elections in Michigan. Chesterfield Township Clerk Cindy Berry was particularly critical of Karamo’s lack of election experience, telling MLive, “If our goal as Republicans is to restore the confidence of Michigan elections, how confident would we be in having a candidate with no credentials and no experience?”
Karamo, a professor of public speaking, built her profile and campaign on allegations of fraud in the last election and by claiming to have witnessed it herself as a poll challenger in Detroit. She was featured as a “whistleblower” in December 2020 on Fox News’ Hannity, where she recounted watching Detroit election officials take a ballot that was marked straight ticket, but for both parties, and count it for Joe Biden. But as former Michigan elections director Chris Thomas later explained to the Guardian, the ballot wasn’t counted for Biden, it was tossed out as an over-vote.
She also testified before the state legislature about alleged voter fraud and participated in Trump allies’ lawsuits contesting the election results. Both of those lawsuits, like numerous others filed by Trump and his associates in 2020, were tossed out. Her campaign website focuses on “election integrity” and styles her last name in campaign materials with a padlock on the "K." The 2020 election in Michigan was close, but Biden won with a nearly 3-point margin. The state conducted 250 postelection audits, which confirmed Biden’s win.
Her candidacy comes as Trump and his allies continue to push the false narrative that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Although Republicans still have not provided evidence of widespread voter fraud, taxpayers have footed the bill for a so-called forensic audit in Arizona that reaffirmed his loss, as well as other investigations in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Legislators in Florida and Georgia have passed laws creating election police forces, also at taxpayer expense. And activists who believe Trump’s voter fraud allegations are going door-to-door in multiple states even now, 18 months after the election, trying to find the proof themselves. Meanwhile, election officials report feeling unsafe in their jobs because of a deluge of threats.
In addition to spreading election misinformation, Karamo has taken up attacks on transgender kids playing sports, and she attended a QAnon-affiliated conference in Las Vegas last fall. As CNN reported, Karamo also claimed on her podcast that the Jan. 6 insurrection was conducted by “antifa posing as Trump supporters.”
Karamo declined a request for comment. A spokesperson said Thursday that Karamo was busy contacting delegates to secure her party’s endorsement and “simply doesn't have the time to respond.”