Calley sets elections to replace Gamrat, Courser

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 — Lt. Gov. Brian Calley said Friday that successors for former Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat will be decided in a primary election Nov. 3 and a general election next year on March 8.

The elections are for Courser’s seat in the 82nd District in Lapeer County and Gamrat’s post in the 80th District in Allegan County. The House early Friday expelled Gamrat of Plainwell from office an hour after Courser of Lapeer resigned before a planned vote on his expulsion.

The dates are as expeditious as possible while minimizing the cost to taxpayers, Calley said. He made the decision since Gov. Rick Snyder is on a trade trip to Germany and Japan.

“This determination ensures we can put this troubling situation behind us and continue our focus on moving Michigan forward and the issues that make a positive difference for all residents,” Calley said in a statement.

“... By adding this question to the ballot on existing election dates, costs will be minimized to local governments, and voters will have ample time to research candidates and make the best decision as to who will next represent them.”

Candidates must file by 4 p.m. Sept. 18 to qualify for the Nov. 3 primary ballot.

When Rep. Brandon Dillon of Grand Rapids resigned in early August to become chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, Snyder decided to hold the primaries for the 75th District seat on Nov. 3 and the general election on March 8 — the same date as the presidential primary in Michigan.

House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s office has said House staff would be assigned to handle constituent issues for the two districts while the seats are vacant.

GOP activist and political consultant Jake Davison, who already had announced his intention to challenge Courser next year, would be a presumptive candidate in a special election. 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.

A second Republican candidate, retired Deerfield Township attorney Gary Howell, also has filed to run for the 82nd District seat in 2016. Howell is president of the Lapeer Intermediate School District board and a Lapeer County Road Commission member.

A third possible GOP candidate, Eastern Michigan State Fair manager Ian Kempf of Imlay City, has expressed interest in running for the seat but Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer said he hasn’t yet filed. Kempf also is a county commissioner.

“We’ve had a lot of interest in that seat,” Spencer said.

Allegan County Republican Mary Whiteford is a potential candidate in an 80th District special election since she announced in mid-August she would challenge Gamrat in 2016. The pediatric emergency nurse finished a close second to Gamrat in the August 2014 primary.

Earlier this year, the resident of Casco Township near South Haven lost her bid to become the Michigan Republican Party's new national committeewoman.

No one has filed for the seat but Whiteford has submitted campaign finance forms, according to Allegan County Clerk Joyce Watts, who said she urges candidates not to file for office before the election year. Watts said there are “rumblings” about other possible candidates.

gheinlein@detroitnews.com

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