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Two sides are fighting for control as the Hillsdale County Republican Party divide worsens

Hillsdale County Republican Party
Posted at 1:54 PM, Sep 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-02 13:26:00-04

HILLSDALE, Mich. — More infighting has now led to two factions claiming control within the Hillsdale County Republican Party ranks.

Twenty members of the Hillsdale County Republican Executive Committee held a special meeting last week to remove officers from their committee for what they say were violations of local party bylaws and state election law.

The state party got involved, and now, the local group is firing back.

Led by Chair Brent Leininger, the committee members adopted a resolution to remove from office Daren Wiseley, Lance Lashaway, Jon Smith, Josh Gritzmaker, Belle Stier and Jon-Paul Rutan, and then, they elected Leininger, Penny Swan, Secretary and Hillsdale County Clerk Marney Kast, Kathleen Schmitt, Bambi Somerlott and Parliamentarian and County Prosecutor Neal Brady to finish the current terms.

“We were tired of the laws being broken by the prior leadership of the Hillsdale County Republican Executive Committee in the Republican Party,” Leininger said. “Those laws most recently included them taking steps to bar duly-elected precinct delegates from attending the county convention in August.”

But, the state Republican Party has chimed in again.

Chairman Ron Weiser issued a statement two days after committee members adopted a resolution to remove members from office.

“The Michigan GOP continues to recognize the current leadership of the Hillsdale County GOP and will not be reviewing the matter any further,” he said. “The group of people who met on Aug. 25 is not considered legitimate by the state party.”

In a party memo sent out by Leininger, he said he will disregard Weiser’s statement because he “did not have all the information” or “was not aware a quorum of legally-elected delegates voted to restructure its leadership and bring the county into compliance.”

This effectively creates two executive committees within the same county party.

“By law, they’re still a member of the executive committee,” Leininger said. “Those individuals were elected to the executive committee following the November election in 2020 by the precinct delegates at the post-election convention that occurs every two years after the November general election. And, we’ll have another one of those conventions in November of this year where the precinct delegates will get to elect new representation for the precinct delegates to the executive committee for the next two years.”

This stems from the Hillsdale County Republican Party barring 61 precinct delegates from attending the county convention on Aug. 11, which chose 13 people to attend the state party nominating convention held this past Saturday.

The county party sent two delegate lists to the state party, but they ultimately decided to use Leininger’s list because they believed county party leadership broke rules by barring duly-elected precinct delegates from attending the county convention.

Hillsdale Republican Party Executive Committee Secretary Jon Smith said he believes it’s been people versus the government.

In a written statement to FOX 47 News, Smith said, “There are two groups of thought in Hillsdale County as it appears, the sanctioned “America First” delegates that censured Senator Mike Shirkey, then there is the so-called moderates, that is made up mostly of our county government that somehow tried to remove the censure. The “America First” Hillsdale County Republican Party is the sanctioned party and is acknowledged by the Michigan GOP. The officers of the Hillsdale County Republican Party will finish their terms appropriately until this winter and there is nothing that these fake Republicans can do.”

“It’s interesting that there’s a group of factions that are claiming to be the “America First” party, and I want to see America succeed as much as the next guy and as much as many of them do,” Leininger said. “We all, for the most part, supported Tudor Dixon and Shane Hernandez her lieutenant governor candidate at the convention on Saturday, and that was evident by the overwhelming support of the delegates that Shane had in the nomination for the lieutenant governor position. We can all come together and agree to support that great candidacy for governor and lieutenant governor. I think we can continue to move the party forward in cooperation with each other.”

Leininger said they’re now focused on the November election and will be working with Congressman Tim Walberg, Tudor Dixon, Shane Hernandez and Senate and House candidates to see they get elected.

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