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Stateside Podcast: MIGOP Fight "we got a problem!"

Design by Rachel Ishikawa.

This past weekend two Michigan GOP members — Kalamazoo Republican Party Chair Kelly Sackett and Macomb County Republican Party Secretary Melissa Pehlis — got into a physical altercation at a patio bar in Clare, MI.

The incident was caught on tape. Capitol reporter at Bridge Michigan Jonathan Oosting covered the aftermath of this GOP scuffle.

“At one point, the Kalamazoo Republican Party chair, Kelly Sackett, knocked a cigarette and a cell phone from the hand of the McComb GOP Secretary Melissa Pehlis,” said Oosting. “Pehlis responded by thrusting an open hand at Sackett’s head.”

Oosting said that police were called to intervene and that Sackett has since filed a police complaint over the incident.

The fight, Oosting said, speaks to larger fissures within the Michigan GOP — a GOP now dominated by Trump-inspired grassroots Republicans. Infighting (albeit typically not physical) between the GOP old guard and grassroots factions is nothing new. What is different, Oosting said, is that now with the old guard out, this infighting is happening between grassroots Republicans.

“The bigger picture look here is this simmering tension between DePerno factions and factions loyal to the new party chair, Kristina Karamo. There's been a lot of GOP infighting in recent years in Michigan, but a lot of that has been the so-called establishment versus the grassroots. The grassroots has now successfully pretty much kicked the establishment out of the party and now we saw … feuding amongst themselves.”

Looking ahead towards upcoming election in the next two years, this infighting could affect the party's ability effectively organize. "Time will tell," Oosting said.

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Laura is Executive Producer of Stateside. She came to Michigan Public from WDET in Detroit, where she was senior producer on the current events program, Detroit Today.
Rachel Ishikawa joined Michigan Public in 2020 as a podcast producer. She produced Kids These Days, a limited-run series that launched in the summer of 2020.