It’s hard to know where to begin.
The Macomb County Republic Party convention on Monday night erupted into chaos, as battling GOP factions engaged in verbal clashes and Shelby Township police moved in to calm the situation.
Before the long night was over, the convention delegates ousted the county party chair from his post and another top party official was greeted with chants of “Lock him up” from the overflow crowd of perhaps several hundred people.
The convention was held to pick county delegates to the upcoming state GOP convention. These gatherings are typically routine and often rather dull. But not in Macomb.
Shortly after the event began at the Shelby Gardens banquet hall, party chairman Mark Forton (above) took the stage in a rather combative mood. As the attendees grew raucous, Forton declared that he would say his piece about GOP divisiveness if it took till 2 a.m. At one point, he dared his critics in the crowd to have the police on hand arrest him.
A few hours later, he was subjected to a no-confidence vote and was booted by the delegates by a narrow, 25-vote margin.
The GOP faithful were divided over state party leadership, county party leadership, former President Donald Trump’s 2022 election endorsements, and a host of other issues, including some that go deep into the weeds.
Two of Michigan’s top reporters, Craig Mauger of The Detroit News and Laina Stebbins of the Michigan Advance news site, were on hand to describe the mayhem on Twitter, offering tweets, videos and photos.
For some in the angry crowd, this was a “shit show.” Three Shelby officers tried to restore order as several separate shouting matches broke out within the dense gathering. One delegate repeatedly disrupted the proceedings by blowing an air horn, Mauger reported. When the police tried to remove one particularly unruly man, he refused to leave, according to Gibbons.
As the 10th Congressional District chairman Stan Grot manned the podium, he was derided by the “Lock him up” chants. Grot, who also serves as the Shelby Township clerk, was caught in a bit of a scandal in 2020 for receiving large sums of cash, reportedly $200,000, from the state party.
When each name of the credentialed delegates who were eligible to vote was read aloud, some names spurred chants of “RINO” (Republican In Name Only). During the voting portion, members of the press and nondelegates were kicked out of the hall.
For the task of tallying the ballots, the controversial Mellissa Carone was initially chosen to help with the count. After the 2020 presidential election, Carone publicly made several wildly untrue claims about the vote counting process at the Detroit TCF Center (now Huntington Place). That debacle sparked a parody of Carone in a Saturday Night Live comedy sketch.
After an exasperating night, county Prosecutor Pete Lucido was overheard saying: “This party is a mess.”
But Carone had other ideas: “We’ll make our own party and it will be fine.”
Mauger reported this morning that Forton told him he will hound his political opponents more aggressively following his ouster. “Now we can go after these people,” the ex-chairman said.
Forton said he plans to launch a recall campaign against Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini, a fellow Republican, if Forlini doesn’t allow Carone on the ballot as a state House candidate in Macomb Township.
Carone owes more than $1,000 in punitive fees for ignoring campaign finance reporting deadlines and then, in a sworn affidavit, falsely claimed that she had no outstanding financial issues with elections officials. As a result, she was disqualified from the ballot on March 31.