Fields of candidates grow for seats of Courser, Gamrat

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

This article has been updated to correct that Allegan County Republican Mary Whiteford lost her bid to become the Michigan Republican Party's new national committeewoman.

Lansing — The number of candidates has grown for the state House seats that became vacant when Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat were forced out of the Legislature late last week during a dramatic session.

Courser, R-Lapeer, resigned and Gamrat, R-Plainwell, was expelled on a House vote after a special committee of fellow lawmakers recommended their ouster. The committee cited House Business Office findings that the two were deceitful, mistreated staffers and misused office resources in trying to cover up an extramarital affair.

Would-be successors for Courser and Gamrat have until 4 p.m. Friday to file for the primary election that will be held Nov. 3. The general election is scheduled for March 8 in the heavily Republican districts.

Allegan County Clerk Joyce Watts said she’s heard a number of local activists are eyeing the 80th District seat in west Michigan from which Gamrat has been booted. Only former Gamrat opponent Mary Whiteford had filed as of Monday afternoon.

“She was here at quarter of eight this morning,” said Watts, who has been clerk for 40 years. “I’ve heard several others are interested.”

Whiteford, an Allegan County Republican activist and pediatric emergency nurse, finished a close second to Gamrat in the August 2014 primary. A resident of Casco Township near South Haven, Whiteford lost her bid to become the Michigan Republican Party's new national committeewoman earlier this year.

Others in the 80th District include:

■Second-term Allegan County Commissioner Jim Storey of Holland, who announced Monday he’s also a candidate. Storey has served on the West Michigan Airport Authority and the Holland Board of Public Works, and is former chair of the Government Affairs Committee for the Holland Chamber of Commerce.

■Allegan County Commissioner Bill Sage, a Republican and tea party activist who has expressed interest. Sage created a political action committee called W.O.L.F PAC, which stands for We the people Of Liberty and Freedom, that vows to shrink government and support the 10th Amendment, among other things.

The activity has been greater in the 82nd District House seat from which Courser resigned. Among the candidates who have filed or are interested are:

■Jan Peabody, who finished second to Courser in a field of four candidates in last year’s GOP primary. She announced her intention to run in a Saturday Facebook posting. Peabody, chairwoman of the Lapeer County Republican Party, finished 300 votes behind Courser after a nasty campaign in which stickers were pasted on her yard signs saying they were illegal and a flier was circulated accusing Courser of being a child molester. Some have speculated Courser was behind the tactic to gain sympathy votes, but he has denied it.

■Hadley Township farmer Chris Tuski, a Republican who filed Monday. Tuski, a volunteer firefighter, has worked as an engineer for General Motors and Chrysler, according to his website, which indicates his campaign team includes ex-state Rep. Kevin Daley.

■GOP activist and political consultant Jake Davison, who announced his intention to challenge Courser next year. The resident of Lapeer County’s Mayfield Township is a former communications and policy director for the state chapter of the conservative Americans for Prosperity.

■Retired Deerfield Township attorney Gary Howell, who also filed for the 82nd District seat in 2016. Howell is president of the Lapeer Intermediate School District board and a Lapeer County Road Commission member.

■Eastern Michigan State Fair manager Ian Kempf of Imlay City. Kempf has been a Lapeer County commissioner since 2000. He and his wife also own an Imlay City florist shop.

Filing deadlines

Requirements for those 21 and older who want to run for the open House District 80 and 82 seats:

■Republicans or Democrats who live in the district must file by 4 p.m. Friday. They also must be registered voters.

■Submit District 80 affidavit of identity and nominating petitions with at least 200 valid signatures (up to 400 can be filed) or $100 filing fee to the Allegan County Clerk’s Office, 113 Chestnut Street, Allegan, MI 49010; (269) 673-0450; fax: (269) 686-5374.

■Submit District 82 affidavit of identity and nominating petitions with at least 200 valid signatures (up to 400 can be filed) or $100 filing fee to the Lapeer County Clerk’s Office, 255 Clay St., Lapeer, MI 48446; (810) 667-0356; email:

■Filed candidates have until 4 p.m. Sept. 21 to withdraw from the Nov. 3 primary.

■Independent parties have until 4 p.m. Nov. 3 to hold nominating caucuses or conventions for the March 8 general election. The filing deadline for the candidate is one business day after the caucus.

Source: Michigan Secretary of State’s office