Leonard or Greimel likely as next state House Speaker

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Either Republican Rep. Tom Leonard of DeWitt or Democratic Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills is likely to be the next speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, depending on whose respective political party wins control of the lower chamber in November.

Republican Rep. Tom Leonard of DeWitt, left, and Democratic Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills.

Rep. Rob VerHeulen, R-Walker, announced Tuesday morning he has dropped his bid to lead the Republican caucus next session. Leonard and VerHeulen were the only announced candidates to replace House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, who will be term-limited out of office.

“Now is the time to merge our leadership teams and put all of the focus on bringing back the successful House Republican majority this fall,” VerHeulen said in a joint release.

“Representative Leonard is a close friend, and he will do a great job leading this caucus. I appreciate his willingness to stand alongside my team, and I look forward to all of us working closely together on the biggest issues facing this state for years to come.”

Greimel, House Minority Leader since 2012, is expected to lead the Democratic caucus again next session, which would be his third and final full term allowed under state law.

Official caucus leadership elections are expected to take place shortly after voters decide the next president, state House seats and other down-ticket races on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Democrats would need to pick up nine seats to win a state House majority for the first time since a 2010 wave election gave Republicans full control of state government. A GOP loss of eight seats would mean the parties share control of the 110-member chamber for the first time since 1993-94.

Leonard, who forged a more conservative coalition than VerHeulen as they vied for the caucus post, is poised to rise from the rank of Speaker Pro-Tem under Cotter, either as the next speaker or as minority leader. VerHeulen is expected to retain his post as caucus whip.

Now running for his third and final term in the House, Leonard previously worked as an assistant attorney general for the state and as a prosecutor for Genesee County. He is a former chairman of the DeWitt Township Public Safety Committee.

“I have the utmost respect for Representative VerHeulen,” Leonard said in a statement. “He is not only a colleague, but a close friend. I look forward to working with him and the rest of our Republican caucus over the next six weeks as we work to preserve a House Republican majority in November.”

Through July 20, Leonard had raised $182,275 for his leadership committee this election cycle, according to state records, with top donors including the Michigan Association of Collection Agencies and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. He had spent $73,096, mostly to support other Republicans running for state House.

VerHeulen had outraised Leonard, reporting $291,925 in contributions to his leadership fund this cycle, but spent less supporting House candidates.