Political Insider: Epstein fundraiser canceled over her Trump support

Lena Epstein

A campaign fundraiser for Republican congressional candidate Lena Epstein scheduled for Wednesday was abruptly canceled by the board of the Franklin Hills Country Club over her political views, she alleged.

Epstein, an unapologetic supporter of President Donald Trump, was upset, noting that her family has been a member of the private Oakland County club for "generations," and it hosted a fundraiser a month ago for Democrat Suneel Gupta, who is also running for the U.S. House in Michigan's 11th District.

She accused the club of having different standards for Republicans and Democrats. Donald Trump Jr. shared news coverage of her allegations Wednesday on Twitter.

"The event had been scheduled and confirmed for over a month, and was fully compliant with Franklin Hills rules," Epstein said in a statement. 

"I will not let this unfortunate situation deter me from continuing to support our president," she added.

"I hope lessons can be learned from this, and we can work toward treating everyone fairly, regardless of political beliefs. I am determined to bring grace and dignity back to the political discourse in this country.”

Epstein co-chaired Trump's campaign in Michigan in 2016 and is seeking the GOP nomination in the 11th District, where Republican Rep. Dave Trott is retiring. 

The Franklin Hills manager and board president did not return calls from The Detroit News.

The apparent cancellation of the Epstein fundraiser came a week after a Facebook post by Michael Simon, the son of a former president of the club, who expressed concerns about Epstein's support for Trump's border and immigration policies.

“Franklin Hills was founded in 1927 because Jews were not permitted to be members elsewhere,” Simon wrote in the since-deleted post.

“My deep connection to this place is why I’m so heartbroken to see FHCC’s leaders affiliate themselves with the racist campaign being run by Lena Epstein to tear children from the arms of their parents.”

Simon called on Franklin Hills members and the wider Jewish community to disassociate themselves from Epstein.

In a June 21 update, he said the Franklin Hills board asked Epstein to voluntarily relocate the event and "not bring her brand of toxic xenophobia" to the clubhouse, but she had not willingly done so.

Epstein "decided it is more important to host the divisive event than to respect the core values of her faith and the legacy of a club founded by people fleeing anti-Semitism," Simon wrote.

Epstein said she initially didn't plan to take the matter public. She decided to speak out when it surfaced on social media and after an incident where White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant because she works for Trump.

"This isn’t just about one fundraiser being canceled. It represents a much bigger issue we’re now facing as a nation," Epstein said. 

"We need to learn how to have civil discussions and be cordial with those we don’t always agree with."

Warren mayor can't be disturbed while jogging

Warren residents beware: Mayor Jim Fouts can't be disturbed during his twice-daily jogs. 

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, Fouts said he could not stop to talk to residents while jogging if he wanted to obtain "a complete cardio exercise" for his heart. He said it is not his intention to offend anyone during his 45-minute jogs.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts says he does not want to be bothered while running.

The Facebook post appeared to have been prompted by a woman who Fouts said stopped into the Warren offices Tuesday to complain the mayor wouldn't stop to speak with her. 

"Apparently some seem to think I'm obligated to stop and talk and that is not the case," Fouts wrote. "Allow me time to jog without the encumbrance of stopping."

Biden backs Benson for SOS

Former Vice President Joe Biden is backing Democrat Jocelyn Benson in her second bid for Michigan Secretary of State, her campaign announced Wednesday.

The former dean of the Wayne State University Law School is “a leader who will make Michigan proud,” Biden said in a statement.

Benson, 40, was the Democratic nominee for the post in 2010 but lost to Republican Secretary of State Ruth Johnson by roughly six percentage points. She is poised to make the 2018 ballot after winning an uncontested state party endorsement vote in April.    

Secretary of State candidate Jocelyn Benson, left, speaks at the Michigan Democratic Convention. Next to her is former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin.

"We're at a pivotal time in our nation when protecting the sacred right to vote, and our elections is more important than ever,” Biden said. 

“I am proud to endorse Jocelyn Benson for Michigan Secretary of State because she will make sure special interests don't drown out the voices of working men and women by cleaning up the secret money flowing into our elections.”

Benson is a Harvard Law School graduate, CEO of the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality and founding member of the Military Spouses of Michigan. She served as Wayne State law school dean from 2012 through September 2016.

Benson is expected to face one of three Republicans competing for the GOP nomination, Shelby Township Clerk Stan Grot, Eastern Michigan University Regent Mary Treder Lang and Michigan State University Professor Joseph Guzman.

Chamber endorses for Congress 

The Detroit Regional Chamber has put its support behind several candidates in contested primaries for the U.S. House.

The chamber’s political action committee recently announced endorsements, including state Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, and state Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, in the 11th District, where Trott is retiring.

The PAC is also backing Democrat Andy Levin, who is seeking to succeed his father Rep. Sandy Levin in the 9th District, and state Sen. Ian Conyers, D-Detroit, who is running to succeed his great-uncle, resigned Rep. John Conyers Jr. 

GOP women's group condemns Waters statement

A GOP women's group condemned recent comments from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, in which she goaded California constituents to confront officials working for Trump.

“If you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd, and you push back on them!” Waters told a group in California. 

The Republican Women's Federation of Michigan said Waters' comments prove she has "little regard for the life and liberties" of the president and his cabinet. 

According to the statement, the GOP women's group has used donations for a little over a year to ensure law enforcement and security are present at the group's events because of comments like the ones Waters made. 

"The Democrat Party, hiding behind a ‘resist’ movement, has affirmed that they are indeed a Hate Group and should be treated and prosecuted as such," the statement said. 

Contributors: Jonathan Oosting, Melissa Nann Burke and Beth LeBlanc