Here’s who won the Michigan GOP endorsements for state education boards

By: - April 24, 2022 10:03 am

Matt DePerno and Lena Epstein celebrate on stage after winning GOP endorsements during the GOP convention on April 23, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

During a long and chaotic GOP endorsement convention in Grand Rapids Saturday, delegates made their choices for state education boards amid Republican campaigns against schools teaching about racial inequality and LGBTQ+ issues.

The big winners were Kristina Karamo and Matt DePerno, who have both pushed fraud conspiracies about the 2020 presidential election and garnered the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and were picked as the secretary of state and attorney general nominees, respectively. 

Further down the ballot, Lena Epstein and Sevag Vartanian won the party’s endorsements for the University of Michigan Board of Regents after beating former Regent Andrea Fischer Newman and Lauren Hantz. 

Epstein was joined by Trump’s former attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who pushed baseless election conspiracy theories during a December 2020 Michigan House hearing when he told lawmakers they could overturn the election. Giuliani took the stage to make an endorsement speech for Epstein and signed autographs afterward. 

Michigan Republican Party Endorsement Convention, April 23, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

Epstein, who lost a 2018 congressional bid, also told a crowd during her celebration that she will be president of the United States “in 15 years.”

Epstein and Vartanian will  face off against Democratic incumbents Kathy White and Mike Behm in November. 

Travis Menge and Mike Balow won the endorsement for two seats on the Michigan State University Board of Trustees. 

Menge won enough votes in the first round of voting to win the first endorsement, but Balow went on to the second round of voting before beating out incumbent Melanie Foster. 

Menge and Balow will be up against Democrats Renee Knake Jefferson, an incumbent, and Dennis Denno, a Democratic pollster who is running for his first term. 

Craig Wilsher and Christa Murphy are the two Republican nominees for the Wayne State Board of Governors who will be facing off against Democrats Marilyn Kelly, an incumbent and former Supreme Court justice, and Danielle Atkinson of the Mothering Justice advocacy group. 

Michigan Republican Party Endorsement Convention, April 23, 2022 | Allison R. Donahue

Linda Lee Tarver, a longtime GOP activist who sued over the 2020 election, and Tamara Carlone beat Michelle Frederick and former board member Richard Zeile for the GOP endorsement for the state Board of Education. The pair will face off against incumbent Pamela Pugh and educator Mitchell Robinson in November. 

The convention also endorsed Supreme Court nominees. Incumbent Justice Brian Zahra and Paul Hudson won the party’s endorsement for the Michigan Supreme Court. Zahra and Hudson will face off against Democratic-endorsed Justice Richard Bernstein and state Rep. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield).

Another convention will be held in August where precinct delegates will officially nominate the candidates to represent the party in the general election. 

During an Aug. 2 primary election, Republican voters will vote for their gubernatorial, congressional and legislative nominees. 


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Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue is a former Michigan Advance reporter who covered education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.