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Trump ally says he wants to make sure GOP SOS candidate wins


Mackinac Island — U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Florida congressman with close ties to former President Donald Trump, said he visited Michigan this weekend to help ensure a victory for Kristina Karamo, a Republican candidate for secretary of state.

Gaetz was scheduled to appear at an event with Karamo on Friday night, the first day of the Michigan Republican Party's leadership conference on Mackinac Island. Trump endorsed Karamo for secretary of state on Sept. 9.

"Sometimes, I'm the 45th president's advance team. Sometimes, I'm the trail rider," Gaetz told The Detroit News as he walked toward the Pink Pony, where the function with Karamo was scheduled to occur.

"President Trump has backed her candidacy," Gaetz said. "And I'm here to make sure she wins."

As of Friday, Karamo, a member of the Republican Party's state committee and an outspoken critic of how the 2020 election was administered, was the lone GOP candidate in the race to challenge incumbent Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat.

But other Republicans, including state Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, and Cindy Berry, the Chesterfield Township clerk, are said to be considering the possibility of launching bids to become Michigan's top election official.

Some in the GOP believe that Karamo's lack of government experience and her past statements about the 2020 vote could hinder her chances in 2022. Karamo gained national attention after raising concerns about what she saw working as a poll challenger in Detroit in November.

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She testified before the state Senate Oversight Committee on Dec. 1 and signed onto a brief that attempted to give the GOP-controlled Legislature the power to certify election results.

Multiple news outlets previously reported that federal investigators have been probing whether Gaetz obstructed justice by attempting to influence a witness in the federal sex trafficking inquiry targeting him.

He has risen to prominence in recent years by being one of Trump's most vocal supporters in Congress.

"We have to flip Michigan," Gaetz said. "It’s more than any one race. We have to change the tide here. I think for Republicans to be a national party, we’ve got to win in this state. I’m here to rally the faithful.”

cmauger@detroitnews.com