Rep. Banks loses special primary ballot advantage

Detroit News staff

Controversial state Rep. Brian Banks, D-Grosse Pointe, has lost his bid for a special incumbency designation on the August primary ballot.

The Wayne County Elections Commission initially approved putting the designation “state representative” by the name of Banks on the primary ballot because a Republican primary candidate in 1st House District shared his first name.

But when Brian Barill of Grosse Pointe Woods dropped out of the race after the commission’s decision, the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office told The News the designation “shouldn’t appear on the ballot.” The commission on Monday removed the designation.

This means Banks, whose record includes eight felony convictions from 1998 to 2004 for credit card fraud and writing bad checks, will face six Democratic primary challengers who filed by the deadline without the incumbency label. In 2014, he was re-elected after defeating five primary challengers.

Among his challengers this time around is Pamela Sossi of Detroit, who opposed the incumbency label as “unduly prejudicial to the other candidates running for this position.”

Gilbert at rally against abuse

Democratic congressional candidate Melissa Gilbert dropped by the Michigan Capitol last Thursday to attend a rally against child abuse, speaking to a small crowd for five minutes, but not with the media.

The appearance by the Hollywood actress turned Howell resident occurred a day after she disavowed her past comments questioning the U.S. government’s pursuit of extraditing filmmaker Roman Polanski for a 1977 rape of a 13-year-old girl.

“If we can prevent child abuse, we must act, because it is on us to fight for our children,” said Gilbert, a Democrat running for the 8th District seat held by Republican U.S. Rep Mike Bishop of Rochester.

“This means taking action before anything happens, it means passing and strengthening laws to help parents identify child abusers.”

To date, Bishop has raised $968,014 to Gilbert’s $722,204, which includes contributions from the entertainment industry such as from actor Michael Douglas, “Family Guy” producer Seth MacFarlane and singer Clay Aiken. But after subtracting for campaign spending, Bishop’s edge widens to $721,692 in available cash to Gilbert’s $413,772.

Gilbert is taking several years to pay off hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal and California back taxes — a problem first reported by The News.

Congressional challengers usually seek more publicity when they are running against an incumbent with high name recognition, but Gilbert did not take any questions.

A spokesman said she had an important meeting to attend after the rally, where she offered support for state legislation that would create a child abuse registry to list past convicts.

House race tied to scandal

The shadow of the sex scandal involving former state Rep. Todd Courser will hang over Oakland County this summer as a Courser associate runs as a Democrat for a 45th House District seat.

Courser, the Lapeer-area Republican tea party conservative, resigned in September after writing the “controlled burn” email and having it sent last May to fellow Republicans. It falsely claimed Courser was caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing night club in a bid to conceal his affair with state Rep. Cindy Gamrat, the Plainwell Republican whom the House expelled in September.

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 Detroit News reported Aug. 10.

Eickholdt this week filed paperwork to run for the state House and will face Dr. Ted Golden of Rochester Hills in the Democratic primary. The winner will take on incumbent Republican state Rep. Michael Webber of Rochester Hills in the November general election.

Eickholdt has previously denied sending the email, but declined to comment Tuesday on 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 involving alleged misconduct in office and expects the issue to come up.

“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.

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Chad Livengood, Charlie Ramirez and Richard Burr