Courser runs against prosecutor he criticized

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Former state Rep. Todd Courser filed Tuesday to run for Lapeer County prosecutor, attempting a political comeback while facing criminal charges for misconduct in office.

The Lapeer County Clerk’s Office confirmed Tuesday Courser had filed to run in the Republican primary against incumbent Prosecutor Tim Turkelson.

The tea party conservative Republican once criticized Turkelson for failing to prosecute Joe Gamrat — the husband of Courser’s paramour, former State Rep. Cindy Gamrat — who helped send anonymous text messages threatening to expose the extramarital affair if they didn’t resign from office.

Turkelson said he was surprised to learn of his new primary opponent, especially given Courser’s prolific self-promotion through campaign emails and social media.

“It’s unusual for Todd,” Turkelson said. “Normally he likes to announce to much fanfare.”

Courser said Tuesday he decided to run for the prosecutor’s job “after much prayer and consideration.”

“I feel it is important to make sure that this position, like any other authority position, is not used for personal benefit or political advantage,” Courser said in a statement. “Such a position should never be used to exact political retribution against one’s enemies nor give favor to one’s friends.”

Courser, a Lapeer bankruptcy and tax law attorney, resigned under pressure from the Michigan House of Representatives on Sept. 11 to avoid an expulsion vote over his failed, attempted cover-up of the affair.

The House expelled Gamrat, a Plainwell Republican, an hour after Courser resigned. Both former representatives then made failed attempts to win back their House seats in a November special primary election. Courser finished sixth in an 11-candidate GOP primary.

Prosecutorial protest

Courser criticized Turkelson last fall after the prosecutor declined to file criminal extortion charges against Joe Gamrat and one of his co-workers for sending the anonymous text messages.

Courser has said the text messages caused him to spread his infamous “controlled burn” email to fellow Republicans, making up a lurid story about himself in effort to expose the perceived extortion plot.

Turkelson was appointed prosecutor in May 2013 by the Lapeer County Circuit Court to fill out a term vacated by Byron Konschuh, who resigned to become a judge. He was elected to a two-year partial term in 2014 and was an assistant county prosecutor from 1995 to 2007 before returning to private practice.

Courser has a law firm that specializes in bankruptcy, taxes, debt negotiation, wills and trusts, according to his website.

Turkelson said he’s never seen Courser handle a local criminal law case.

“The public knows more about Todd than any candidate out there, and I’ll let the public decide if they want that person to be the chief law enforcement officer of the county,” Turkelson told The Detroit News. “I’m not sure why he thinks he’s more qualified than I am to be prosecuting attorney, but I guess we’ll see how that plays out.”

Lapeer attorney Michael J. Sharkey also filed Tuesday to run in the Republican primary against Turkelson and Courser, according to the Lapeer County Clerk’s Office.

Philip Fulks, another Lapeer attorney, filed to run in the Democratic primary, the clerk’s office said.

Courser's criminal trial

The Courser was scheduled to be in Ingham County District Court Tuesday morning for a hearing related to the felony charges he faces related to alleged misconduct during his brief eight months in office.

The criminal case centers around Courser’s infamous “controlled burn” email sent to fellow Republicans last May, falsely claiming he was caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a prominent Lansing night club in a bid to conceal the affair with Gamrat.

Courser told former House aide Ben Graham that he had longtime friend and business associate Immanuel “Ike” Eickholdt send the email after Graham refused the assignment, The Detroit News reported Aug. 10.

Eickholdt turned up in candidate declarations this week, filing paperwork to run as a Democrat in the 45th House District in Oakland County.

He will face Dr. Ted Golden of Rochester Hills in the Democratic primary. The winner will take on incumbent Republican Rep. Michael Webber of Rochester Hills in the November general election.

Eickholdt previously denied sending the email at Courser’s behest, but declined to comment Tuesday on whether he had any involvement.

“It’s a pending legal case, and I don’t want to take a chance of screwing things up,” Eickholdt told The News.

Eickholdt, a military information technology contractor, said he’s “cooperating” with the Attorney General’s Office in Courser’s criminal case and expects the issue to come up in the primary election.

“Even if he wants to beat the crap out of me about this Todd Courser thing, I’m fine with that,” Eickholdt told The News.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood