Schuette names one-time Trump critic as running mate

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Lisa Posthumus Lyons speaks after Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Schuette announces he has selected her as his running mate during an event at Kent County Republican Headquarters in Grand Rapids on Wednesday.

Grand Rapids — A week after winning a primary campaign in which he consistently boasted of his endorsement from President Donald Trump, Attorney General Bill Schuette has chosen a running mate who publicly criticized Trump in 2016 for his demeaning behavior toward women. 

Despite the incongruity, experts say Kent County Clerk Lisa Posthumus Lyons has the family name to net votes in West Michigan and the legislative experience to win over lawmakers in Lansing. 

Her father, former Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, "set the standard" in western Michigan politics, said pollster Steve Mitchell, "and Lisa has lived up to that standard of public service." 

Schuette announced Lyons, an Alto Republican, as his pick for lieutenant governor Wednesday in Grand Rapids, citing the former state lawmaker’s experience and knowledge of the “dynamics of the Legislature.”

“She is eminently qualified and so smart and articulate and able,” Schuette told reporters.

Lyons joins Schuette on the Republican ticket for what’s expected to be a rough general election campaign as they run against former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, who is expected to name her running mate early next week.

Whitmer will be part of a Democratic ticket in November dominated by women, including U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, who is up for re-election; presumptive attorney general nominee Dana Nessel; and presumptive secretary of state nominee Jocelyn Benson.

Lyons’ experience makes her a good pick for Schuette's lieutenant governor, said Mitchell, who heads Mitchell Research and Communications and is a close friend of Dick Posthumus.

The Posthumus name is popular in West Michigan, Mitchell said, and Lyons' selection could help to solidify the Republican base there.

On Wednesday, Lyons said she hopes to not only unite the Republican Party after a divisive primary but also unite "the people of Michigan around an agenda that will move us forward.”

Schuette regularly criticized Lt. Gov. Brian Calley during the primary campaign for abandoning Trump in 2016 after audio surfaced of Trump making lewd comments about women. Reacting to the same audio, Lyons said in an October 2016 Facebook post that Trump's behavior was "unacceptable."

"The voters chose our nominee, so I have been quiet because I respect the voters," the post said. "But it is clear Donald Trump has not earned my respect or my vote."

When questioned about her comments on Wednesday, Lyons said she now supports the president and the policies emerging from his administration.

"You cannot argue with the results that we’re seeing, from tax cuts for American, hard-working families to rule-of-law judges that are taking the bench throughout the nation," Lyons said.

Lyons' discontent with Trump in 2016, then later support, could help her to relate to other Republicans with initial misgivings about the president, Mitchell said.

“I think she can identify with suburban women, not only in Kent County but in southeast Michigan and around the state,” he said.

But Lyons’ remarks about Trump could prove a liability in the months to come as people scrutinize her responses to the president’s administration, policy and tweets, said Bill Ballenger, a former GOP lawmaker and head of the Ballenger Report.

“She’s kind of going to be on the spot all the time,” Ballenger said. “Any Republican may be this year, but she may be a little more susceptible to the ramifications of her response.”

A southeast Michigan candidate such as Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller likely would have been more advantageous for Schuette, Ballenger said. But he noted that Lyons’ connection to Posthumus may go a long way in patching the rocky relationship between Schuette and Gov. Rick Snyder, who has yet to endorse the attorney general. Her father is Snyder’s chief of staff.

“Does Snyder want to sink her chances just because he’s peeved or angry at Bill Schuette?” Ballenger said. “I think that’s one of the best aspects of Schuette’s choice."

Miller, whom speculation pointed toward as a contender for lieutenant governor, thinks Schuette made an "excellent choice" in picking Lyons, Miller spokesman Dan Heaton said. When asked whether Miller had been approached for the job, Heaton said Miller "never comments on private conversations."

The Michigan Democratic Party said Schuette's pick is more of the "failed status quo" in Lansing and criticized Lyons' handling of education-related policy during her time in the state House.

Party chairman Brandon Dillon noted Lyons has taken thousands of dollars for campaigns from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her family.

The DeVos family routinely contributes toward the campaigns of many Republican candidates. During her nomination hearing last year, Betsy DeVos said it was “possible” her family had contributed a total of $200 million to the Republican Party over several years.

“Lisa Posthumus Lyons is a Betsy DeVos hand-picked candidate, who shows once again that Bill Schuette is running for governor to put special interest donors ahead of Michigan’s middle class,” Dillon said in a statement.

But Dick Posthumus, who attended the announcement Wednesday, said he was proud of his daughter, who he called a "straight shooter" and a "hard worker."

"I think she feels that it's important that the things that Gov. Snyder's done have to continue and this is the best way for her to do that," said Dick Posthumus, a gubernatorial candidate in 2002 and lieutenant governor under former Gov. John Engler from 1999 through 2002.

A member of the state House from 2011 to 2016, Lyons made her name on education and election issues during her time in the House, at times drawing ire for controversial voter rights policies and criticisms of teachers unions.

As chair of the House Education Committee in 2014, Lyons tried unsuccessfully to pass legislation in 2014 that would have empowered Snyder’s Education Achievement Authority to take over the state’s worst-performing schools outside Detroit.

In 2013, Lyons caught flak from Democrats when she said “pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered” in reference to teachers unions fighting for educators in Inkster and Buena Vista schools who stood to lose their jobs through teacher tenure reform.

Lyons voted for Snyder’s Medicaid expansion in 2013, an implementation of the Affordable Care Act that Schuette later attempted to block in courts.

While in the House, Lyons pushed for “no-reason” absentee voting to alleviate long lines and keep voters from lying about their whereabouts on election day.

As chairwoman for the House Elections Committee, Lyons worked to clarify campaign finance legislation in 2015 after local government leaders said the new law constituted a “gag order” banning them from distributing factual information about ballot issues using taxpayer resources. Lyons said at the time the reaction to the legislation was “undeserved” and “sensational.”

Lyons drew criticism in 2012 when she proposed an unsuccessful amendment to the controversial right-to-work law that would have exempted corrections officers. Her husband was a Kent County corrections officer at the time.

Prior to her election to the House in 2010, Lyons was the director of public policy and community outreach for the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors and the Commerical Alliance of Realtors. She’s also served on the board of directors for a Grand Rapids crisis pregnancy counseling center.

Lyons and her husband, Brad, a deputy with the Kent County Sheriff’s Office, have four children.

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