She’s facing possible indictment for her alleged role in the scheme to overturn the 2020 election. Meanwhile, the Michigan Republican Party suffered an historic “ass-kicking” at the polls last November under her leadership.
Surely, Meshawn Maddock’s influence within the state GOP is at an end—right?
Wrong, say some party activists and left-of-MAGA dissenters, who claim Maddock—the party’s co-chair and ideological leader for the past two years—may have a poison pill to force down the throat of the party faithful.
That pill, they say, is her 22-year-old son-in-law, Parker Shonts, who is seeking election as youth vice chair when Michigan Republicans convene for their state convention next month in Lansing.
While the position itself is largely seen as ceremonial, and the vast majority of attention is being paid to the race for the next chair of the party, skeptics see Shonts’ candidacy as a proxy to affirm Maddock’s continued influence.
In other words, some Republicans say, Shonts stands for doubling down on the same far-right, election-denying politics that may have doomed the party last fall.
Tom Stroup is a former county and district chairman in the Michigan Republican Party who’s been involved in the state GOP for 22 years. He is also an elected precinct delegate in Northville Township who will be casting a ballot for the party’s new leader.
If there’s one thing Stroup hopes will occur at the convention, it’s an end to the reign of Meshawn Maddock and her husband, Republican State Rep. Matt Maddock.
“I have known the Maddocks long before they came to power in the Michigan Republican Party, and they have been a problem in our party basically since day one,” Stroup told The Daily Beast.
Stroup says that Maddock’s faction, and those who have supported her, are getting smaller every day since Michigan Democrats trounced Republican candidates for governor, attorney general, and secretary of state.
“Meshawn did such a poor job as co-chair of the party,” he said, suggesting that Shonts’ candidacy “is a part of trying a power play to try and stay in power in some form.”
When asked if Shonts was simply a mouthpiece for his in-laws, Stroup didn’t hesitate to answer. “I think that is a good way to put it. That’s just another Maddock to me.”
When asked via email to comment for this story, Shonts responded only with the following: “The Daily Beast is a trash publication and you should be ashamed for working there.” Meshawn Maddock—who has not been charged with any crimes—responded with the exact same language as her son-in-law.
Of course, some of the post-election circular firing squad has focused on outgoing party chair Ron Weiser, who has a scandal-plagued history of his own that includes labeling the women atop the state government “witches.” Tudor Dixon, the party’s failed gubernatorial candidate, blasted Weiser (and Maddock) for the party’s midterm debacle.
Like Weiser, Maddock has indicated that she will not be running to be the next chair. Instead, she said, she will be “laser focused on winning Michigan for Trump.”
Some party activists aren’t buying it.
Shonts, who married the Maddocks’ daughter Parker last summer, has shown every inclination to engage in the type of culture war conflict his mother-in-law is well-known for—and that some Republicans think the party has to move on from.
Whether issuing a “Groomer Alert” when reposting a Libs of TikTok attack on the LGBTQ community, referring to Kwanzaa as a “fake holiday,”or calling those opposed to him “low-T, anti-family Republicans,” Shonts easily mirrors Meshawn’s shoot-from-the-hip style.
He also shares what is likely a very important trait with the Maddocks, and certainly with the Trump wing of the national GOP: a history of election-denying.
For starters, there’s the crowd backing him. Shonts has been endorsed by a host of election deniers, including My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell and Michigan GOP District Chair Shane Trejo. The latter—who, as The Daily Beast reported, hosted a podcast with a member of the white supremacist group Identity Evropa—called for the ouster of a fellow Republican who voted to certify Joe Biden’s 2020 win.
Shonts was also on the proverbial front lines in the attempt to question an election himself, indicating he was “present challenging ballots at the TCF Center in Detroit during the pivotal 2020 election.” At the time, he tweeted it was a “#RiggedElection.”
Also present at the TCF Center that night was his future mother-in-law, who helped to organize Republican volunteer poll challengers and claimed, “People are being cheated and they feel like something is being stolen from them right now.”
Those claims were among a myriad of misinformation that post-election audits determined were “either entirely fabricated, based upon misunderstanding of election processes, or the result of incorrect inferences that human errors were intentional misconduct.”
However, Meshawn Maddock’s ascent to power in the Michigan Republican Party took off after the 2020 election, as she amplified former President Trump’s lie that the contest had been stolen. More importantly, when it comes to her legal fate, she has been accused of playing a prominent role in the plot to overturn the election.
“She picked a bunch of losers and she over-extended herself and she was more concerned about mean tweets than she was about getting the fundamentals right.”
— Dennis Lennox
Maddock was among 16 Michigan Republicans who signed and submitted false electoral certificates at the state Capitol in Lansing on the same day that the Electoral College met to certify the state’s election results in late 2020.
While those results clearly showed President Joe Biden defeated Trump by more than 154,000 votes to win all 16 of Michigan’s electoral votes, Maddock and her alleged co-conspirators seemed to provide a rationale for GOP legislative leaders in Michigan to switch the state’s electoral delegates to Trump.
Maddock herself was caught on tape in early 2022 saying that the plan to submit fake electors came from the Trump campaign.
“We fought to seat the electors. The Trump campaign asked us to do that,” said Maddock at a public event organized by the conservative group Stand Up Michigan, according to a recording obtained by CNN and also cited in the final report of the House Jan. 6 committee.
A year after turning over the investigation of the scheme to federal authorities, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel recently announced that she was reopening the state investigation into fake electors. She said there was now “overwhelming evidence” to bring charges based on the report by the House Jan. 6 select committee.
If charged and convicted, Maddock and any other fake electors could face up to 14 years in prison.
Meanwhile, as the race for party chairs approaches, the question remains: How much influence does Maddock still have within the party, and is her son-in-law a proxy bid to stay relevant?
Dennis Lennox, a Republican strategist in Michigan, says it’s a bit more nuanced than that.
“She would be much more influential if she was to be a congressional district chair somewhere, or just a rank-and-file state committee member,” he told The Daily Beast.
But Lennox is one who says the race for youth vice chair is not as trivial as it may seem.
“Historically, it has been the most contested, the nastiest race,” he said. “I can remember running races for a youth chair at the convention, winning some, losing some, and hating the people because you’re 20 years old and you hate the person who wins. Then, 10 years later, you’re both political professionals and you’re working together.”
Lennox noted that past youth vice chairs have gone on to prominence in the state party, including Rep. Matt Hall, who is the current state House Republican Leader, and Gus Portela, who was the press secretary for the state party in this past cycle and is now Hall’s Communications Director.
To the extent that Shonts’ candidacy is seen as a proxy move by Maddock, Lennox said that many within the party believe she has to take responsibility for the dismal results of last year’s election.
“She picked a bunch of losers and she over-extended herself and she was more concerned about mean tweets than she was about getting the fundamentals right,” Lennox told The Daily Beast. “I don’t necessarily think some of her policy positions are incorrect, but I don’t think she knows anything about messaging. She tried picking a fight with everybody. You were either with her or you were against her.”
Concurring on that point is Bob Carr, a lifelong Republican who began his political career in the Office of Economic Opportunity during the Nixon Administration and later worked on Capitol Hill and with the Republican National Committee.
He made unsuccessful runs for U.S. Senate in 1996 and then again in 2020, when he was bumped from the ballot after too many of his petition signatures were deemed invalid. He also made a run for the Michigan House of Representatives in 2022.
“It’s terrible,” Carr said of Shonts’ candidacy. “His campaign is all pre-packaged. It was Meshawn all the way. Absolutely. She wrote all that stuff. She had to. Parker was absolutely cookie cutter and canned, and now we know why. Meshawn wrote it. Of course she did.” (Shonts denied that his mother-in-law wrote his campaign materials despite her response to The Daily Beast precisely mirroring his own.)
The other candidate of note for the youth vice chair position is 20-year-old Rylee Linting, who has garnered her own set of colorful endorsements. They include Republican State Rep. Donni Steele and Linda Lee Tarver, a former member of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and a one-time election-denier in her own right.
Shonts and Linting have traded jabs on social media, as he accused her of being run by the “DeVos mafia,” referencing the family of former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who have used their wealth through the years to steer GOP policy. Linting fired back, calling that assertion “unequivocally false,” adding that Shonts had “chosen to spread lies” about her on numerous occasions.
Linting has her own associations with the Stop the Steal crowd, including an at least partial embrace of failed A.G. candidate and potential indictee Matt DePerno in a recent social-media post. But of the Republicans surveyed for insight into the party’s future for this story, Shonts’ candidacy—and what it represents—stood out most of all.
Whether the outgoing party co-chair will retain the influence she appears to covet remains to be seen.
“Meshawn’s toast, even though now she’s got a proxy running, but she’s done,” said Carr, the erstwhile candidate.