New reps for Courser, Gamrat House seats get sworn in

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Voters in Lapeer and Allegan counties are being represented again in the Michigan House, six months after former state Reps. Todd Courser resigned and Cindy Gamrat was expelled for official misconduct and trying to cover up an extramarital affair.

The Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday swore into office newly elected Republican state Reps. Mary Whiteford of Allegan County and Gary Howell of Lapeer County.

Whiteford and Howell won special elections a week ago to serve out Gamrat and Courser’s remaining terms in office.

The House also swore into office new Rep. David LaGrand, a Grand Rapids Democrat who replaces former Rep. Brandon Dillon. In August, Dillon resigned from office to become chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party.

As Howell and Whiteford were posing for pictures and finding their seats in the House chambers, their predecessors were across the street at Lansing’s 54A District Court for a hearing related to the felony charges they now face for misconduct during their nine months in office.

Courser and Gamrat face multiple felony charges for misconduct in office related to Courser’s failed attempt to cover up their affair, allegedly lying to House investigators and using state employees to forge their signatures on proposed legislation.

Separately, Attorney General Bill Schuette has accused Courser of committing perjury by lying under oath to a House committee about having a staff member forge his signature so a bill could be filed ahead of other another representative.

Ingham County District Court Judge Hugh B. Clarke Jr. on Tuesday scheduled an April 19 hearing for motions and procedures leading up to a May 11 evidential hearing. The judge tentatively scheduled a preliminary examination hearing to start May 25 to determine whether the pair should stand trial.

With the three vacant seats filled, the Republican majority in the House improved to 63-46 over the Democrats.

There remains one vacancy in the 28th House District after Democratic Rep. Derek Miller resigned last month to become the Macomb County treasurer.

Gov. Rick Snyder has scheduled a special Aug. 2 primary and Nov. 8 general election to fill that vacancy. Those elections will correspond with the regular election for the two-year term beginning Jan. 1, 2017.

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