State rules ex-Rep. Gamrat eligible for ballot

The Detroit News

The Michigan Bureau of Elections ruled Monday that former state Rep. Cindy Gamrat is eligible to run in the special primary election for her seat even though she was expelled 10 days ago.

The West Michigan Republican from Plainwell is one of eight GOP members who have filed for the Nov. 3 primary in House District 80.

“The department reviewed the question of whether Gamrat may appear on the ballot, and we are not aware of anything that would prevent her,” Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said.

“We received questions from citizens and wanted to review if there were any relevant state laws or opinions,” he said.

Gamrat and former State Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, were accused by a House Business Office report of deceit and misuse of taxpayer resources in covering up their extramarital affair and other activities. Both she and Courser testified under oath that they agreed with the findings of the report.

Gamrat was ousted from the state House in a 91-12 vote at 4:13 a.m. on Sept. 11. Courser resigned an hour earlier when it appeared Republican leaders had enough votes to kick him out of office.

Both Gamrat and Courser are running for their old seats. None of the 11 Republicans and three Democrats running in Courser’s House District 82 withdrew from the ballot by Monday’s 4 p.m. deadline. The ballot remains the same in Gamrat’s district, where eight Republicans and one Democrat are running.

Gamrat has accused House leaders of misleading her and agreeing to a censure, a charge they have vehemently denied. And she has argued that the voters of her Allegan County district should decide her political future.

State Rep. Kurt Heise, a Plymouth Republican who was vice chairman of the special House committee that recommended Gamrat’s expulsion, told The Detroit News on Friday there could be a legal challenge to Gamrat’s filing on grounds that her removal from office should be effective through the end of 2016.

It is a sentiment backed by Allegan County Republican Party Chairman Steve McNeal.

“My feeling is that she wasn’t expelled for a minute, an hour or a day but she was expelled for the rest of her term” through December 2016, McNeal said Monday. “Even if she showed up at the doors of the state House, they might well turn her away.”

So far, no one has filed a lawsuit on these grounds.

There is little case law on the issue because Gamrat is only the fourth lawmaker to be ousted in the 172-year history of Michigan. The last lawmaker to be expelled — state Sen. David Jaye, R-Washington Township in May 2001 — considered running again in a special election but didn’t.

Michigan House of Representatives leaders have the extraordinary power not to seat an elected representative.

“The question of whether she (Gamrat) is eligible to be seated is something for the state House to answer,” Woodham said. “The state Constitution makes the House the sole judge of the qualifications and elections of its members.”

The House speaker’s office couldn’t comment Monday on whether Republican leaders would try to prevent Gamrat’s seating if she wins the primary and March 8 general elections.

“We are just trying to get a grasp on the situation right now,” said Gideon D’Assandro, a spokesman for House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant. “We are just trying to put together a complete list of our options.”

If Courser wins his Nov. 3 House District 82 special primary and March 8 general election, the House still could vote to expel him since he resigned from office. It also could vote not to seat him.

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