Republican Party leaders from two different Michigan counties nearly descended into a brawl at a bar as tensions between warring factions in the party continue to escalate in the state.
Over the weekend, various GOP leaders from around the state traveled to Clare, Michigan, just over an hour north of Lansing, for the first state central committee meeting following the in-party elections held in February. On Friday night, the night before the meeting, some of the leaders gathered at an establishment inside the Doherty Hotel for a night of casual socializing.
Among those in attendance at the bar were Kalamazoo Republican Party Chair Kelly Sackett from the southwest side of the state and Macomb County GOP Secretary Melissa Pehlis from an area just north of Detroit. Though both Republicans, Sackett and Pehlis supported different candidates for state party chair a few months ago. Pehlis supported Kristina Karamo, who ultimately won the race, while Sackett preferred Matthew DePerno. DePerno has never conceded defeat to Karamo, and tensions between their respective supporters continue to simmer.
At some point in the evening, Pehlis had a heated exchange with an unidentified woman. Sackett intervened and steered the woman away but then returned to Pehlis and began a heated exchange of her own. During their conversation, Pehlis repeatedly implied that Sackett had acted illegally when she allegedly purged precinct delegates in her county who supported Karamo.
"You're all going to jail," Pehlis alleged to Sackett and her companions, who laughed in response. "You're all going to go down."
"You're so f***ing crazy," Sackett replied. "Get the f*** out of here."
The two then began sparring and circling one another as an unidentified man attempted to separate them. "By the power vested in me?" Pehlis mocked. "Is that what you said?" Sackett had allegedly cited the "authority vested" in her as county chair to dismiss the delegates who supported Karamo.
Sackett eventually lost her patience with Pehlis and appeared to knock some objects out of Pehlis' hand. Bridge Michigan reported that those items were a cigarette and a phone. In reprisal, Pehlis seemingly thrust a hand in Sackett's face. The two women were then parted by other unidentified men, and someone called the police.
The incident was caught on video:
Michigan GOP infighting leads to actual fight between Karamo, DePerno backersyoutu.be
Sackett later told Bridge Michigan that she had filed a complaint with police, but did not elaborate further. The outlet was unable to reach either Pehlis or the Macomb County Republican Party for comment.
Bridge Michigan has characterized this small skirmish in Clare as "a proxy battle" in the continuing war between Karamo and DePerno. Both Karamo and DePerno ran for Michigan executive office last year, Karamo for secretary of state, DePerno for attorney general. Both lost to Democrat incumbents, as did Republican gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon. Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed all three in their respective races last year, endorsed DePerno for chair.
After he lost, DePerno called the February state party convention "fraudulent" and accused Karamo of attempting to install a "radical agenda through a 'Christian only' cult mentality." "There's big internal disputes within the party right now, and Karamo has done nothing to bring the party together," DePerno claimed. "And how could she after she ran on a platform for the chair to divide the party? Her platform was to burn it down to eliminate the people who don't agree with her."
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