Courser ally suspends Oakland County state House run

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Immanuel “Ike” Eickholdt, who first denied but later testified he sent an infamous false flag email last year on behalf of then-Rep. Todd Courser, has suspended his bid for the state House.

Eickholdt said he has moved out of the district after divorcing his wife and having a dispute with his employer. He is living in Montcalm County and said he will not resume his campaign unless something “astronomically weird” happens.

“Life got a little crazy, and I just needed to take a step back,” said Eickholdt, who is effectively conceding the Democratic primary to Ted Golden of Rochester Hills.

His name still will appear on the Aug. 2 primary ballot as one of two Democrats hoping to take on Republican incumbent Rep. Michael Webber of Rochester Hills in the 45th District, which includes Rochester and part of Oakland Charter Township. The deadline to withdraw from the ballot was April 22.

Eickholdt is a longtime friend of Courser, a tea party Republican who resigned in September amid scandal after writing a fake email accusing himself of having sex with a male prostitute and doing drugs. The rumor was designed to discredit talk of his real affair with fellow GOP Rep. Cindy Gamrat, who was expelled.

In an August 2015 interview with The Detroit News, Eickholdt denied sending the email on Courser’s behalf. But with Courser now facing criminal charges, Eickholdt testified in court in May that he sent the email at Courser’s direction.

“Yeah, I originally said I didn’t send that email, but what do you say about such a crazy ass thing that happens in your life?” he said. “When I met with Todd (about the email), he was out of his mind and frustrated.”

Eickholdt’s campaign was a point of interest in an otherwise relatively calm series of state House primary races in Oakland County, where there are only two open seats up for grabs this fall.

The 26th District race to replace term-limited Rep. Jim Townsend, D-Royal Oak, features two uncontested primaries. Royal Oak Mayor Jim Ellison is the lone Democrat running for the seat and expected to take on Republican attorney Randy LeVasseur of Royal Oak in the general election. The district includes Madison Heights.

Two Republicans and one Democrat are vying to replace term-limited GOP Rep. Bradford Jacobsen, R-Oxford Township, in the 46th District, which includes part of Oakland Charter Township along with Addison, Brandon and Orion townships.

John Reilly, a staunchly conservative Oakland Township Republican who lost to Jacobsen in the 2014 primary, did not respond to a request for an interview. On his website, Reilly said he would promote legislation that supports free markets, and he rejects “crony capitalism.” He is an abortion foe who believes life begins at conception.

Joe Kent of Lake Orion is a tax accountant who said his experience proves he has the skill set to balance budgets in Lansing. A Republican, Kent wants to repeal the so-called “pension” tax approved by the GOP-led Legislature in 2011 and reverse Homestead Property Tax Credit changes that affected seniors.

“I think it was wrong to balance the state’s budget on the backs of folks on fixed incomes, and I’m hearing on doorsteps from a lot of people in that category who are thinking about moving away from Michigan or making sure they’re here less than six months a year,” he said. “We’ve effectively shot ourselves in the foot.”

Kent also opposes the road funding deal with tax and registration fee increases set to take effect next year, arguing the state should have prioritized funding to fix the roads without higher taxes.

The winner of 46th Republican primary will face Democrat David Lillis of Lake Orion in the November general election. Lillis, a frequent candidate, lost to Jacobsen in 2014.

Elsewhere in Oakland County, three Republican incumbents face primary challengers.

Two-term Rep. Martin Howrylak of Troy is taking on challenger Ryan Manier of Troy in the 41st District, and Rep. Kathy Crawford of Novi is seeking a second term against Carson Lauffer of Walled Lake in the 38th District.

Rep. Joe Graves of Argentine Township is running for his third full term against Katherine Houston of Utica and John Lauve of Holly in the 51st District. Houston previously sought office as a Democrat, and Graves defeated Lauve in the 2012 primary.