The mutiny took hold on Mackinac Island.
The Michigan Republican Party’s revered two-day policy and politics gathering, the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, was an utter mess.
Attendance had plummeted. Top-tier presidential candidates skipped the September event, and some speakers didn’t show. Guests were baffled by a scoring system that rated their ideology on a scale, from a true conservative to a so-called RINO, or Republican in name only.
And the state party, already deeply in debt, had taken out a $110,000 loan to pay the keynote speaker, Jim Caviezel, an actor who has built an ardent following among the far right after starring in a hit movie this summer about child sex trafficking. The loan came from a trust tied to the wife of the party’s executive director, according to party records.
For some Michigan Republicans, it was the final straw for a chaotic state party leadership that has been plagued by mounting financial problems, lackluster fund-raising, secretive meetings and persistent infighting. Blame has centered on the fiery chairwoman, Kristina Karamo, who skyrocketed to the top of the state party through a combative brand of election denialism but has failed to make good on her promises for new fund-raising sources and armies of activists.
The pitched battle for control of the state party in a pre-eminent presidential battleground is the most extreme example of conflicts brewing in state Republican parties across the country. Once dominated largely by moneyed establishment donors and their allies, many state parties have been taken over by grass-roots Republican activists energized by former President Donald J. Trump and his broadsides against the legitimacy of elections.
These activists, now holding positions of state and local power, have elevated others who share their views, prioritizing election denialism over experience and credentials.
The result has been fund-raising problems and division. The Republican Party of Arizona spent much of this year in debt.
The Republican Party of Georgia has had similar difficulties, mostly caused by legal fees related to efforts to subvert the 2020 election. The state’s governor, Brian Kemp, a rare G.O.P. leader to buck Mr. Trump, had been forced to form his own political apparatus outside the state party for his re-election campaign in 2022. The leaders of the party in both states have aligned themselves with the election-denial movement.