Michigan politicians forced out of office by affair lose Republican primary

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 02, 2015 4:58 PM

By Serena Maria Daniels

DETROIT (Reuters) - Two former Michigan representatives forced out of the state legislature for their extramarital affair and its subsequent cover-up lost their respective bids to regain their seats in a special Republican primary on Tuesday, results showed.

Cindy Gamrat, who was removed from her Allegan County seat, and Todd Courser, who resigned from his seat in Lapeer County to avoid being expelled, both filed their candidacies a week after their seats were vacated in September.

Both won seats in 2014 as Tea Party conservatives and devout Christians.

With 80 percent of the votes counted in Allegan County, Gamrat had logged just 10 percent of the vote, trailing winner Mary Whiteford, state election results showed.

Courser was also headed for defeat. With 68 percent of precincts reporting, the politician was in seventh place, with candidate Gary Howell leading the primary pack.

Gamrat, who ran without support from party leadership, operated a low-key come-back campaign against seven other candidates. "I feel the best approach is to get out one-on-one, going to doors and connecting with voters, so that's what I've been doing," she told Reuters.

After results were posted she told news website MLive she was "at peace with how it turned out, because it was the voters' decision".

Courser claims the affair was uncovered as part of an extortion scheme to get him to resign. He believes voters understand that he has been victimized.

"I have support that runs deep," he told Reuters. "You can throw a lot of blood and guts and that's an easy way to smear someone, but if people know you, it's going to be more difficult to do that."

Last week, the Michigan State Police concluded an investigation of the blackmail accusation. Prosecutors are expected to release information this week, which Courser hopes will reaffirm his extortion claim.

But voters aren't keen to give him a second chance, according to the leading Republican candidate in his district, Jan Peabody. "They're very angry that he's actually allowed to run, but also, they're more angry that he decided to run," Peabody told Reuters.

Tom Shields, a Lansing-based GOP political consultant, said that in their short time in the legislature, Gamrat and Courser resisted compromise, which alienated them from their caucus.

"They really had no good friends in the legislature that were willing to stand up for them and say they deserved a second chance," he said.

Mary Whiteford, who lost to Gamrat in the 2014 primary and is running against her again, says she routinely gets apologies from people who didn't vote for her then.

"I feel like people just want to talk about it and I just listen and say there are so many good things to focus on," Whiteford told Reuters.

(Editing by Fiona Ortiz, Alan Crosby and Victoria Cavaliere)