Michigan House GOP won't back Republican candidate after Whitmer plot comment

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — The main fundraising committee of Michigan House Republicans won't support a Macomb County GOP candidate in a potentially competitive district who questioned law enforcement's handling of the plot against Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

"Conspiracy theories and hateful remarks" from Republican Paul Smith, who's challenging state Rep. Nate Shannon, D-Sterling Heights, don't represent the caucus's values, said House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering and House Republican Campaign Committee Co-Chairman Jason Wentworth, R-Clare, in a statement Saturday.

"That is why the House Republican Campaign Committee is not supporting him and will not spend one dime to get him elected," they said.

Paul M Smith, candidate for state House race in Macomb County's 25th district.

Smith, 74, a former Sterling Heights City Council member, responded on Facebook to a post that shared a New York Times opinion piece titled, "The plot against Gretchen Whitmer shows the danger of private militias."

"What a totally bogus sham," Smith commented. "These citizens never did anything illegal. Law enforcement is employed to punish people who COMMIT crimes, not people The Governess simply HATES. You can legally hurt Whitmer by voting out her minions."

The comment came after authorities identified 13 individuals who were allegedly involved in a plot to harm law enforcement officials, storm the state Capitol, kidnap Whitmer and attempt to incite a civil war.

Republican state House candidate Paul Smith posted this on Facebook this week below a New York Times opinion piece titled, "The plot against Gretchen Whitmer shows the danger of private militias." The photo is of his Democratic opponent, Nate Shannon, with Whitmer.

Smith didn't respond to requests for interviews on Friday and Saturday.

"Defending a violent plot against Governor Whitmer is sadly not a new low for Paul Smith,” said Jessica Post, president of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

Chatfield on Sunday doubled down on the House GOP campaign committee's statement, calling Smith a "loser" in a tweet.

"If you can’t denounce the evil plans and actions of these white nationalists, we don’t want you in our caucus," Chatfield said. "In fact, if there’s any 'Republican' who thinks like this guy, we don’t want your vote either. We don’t support domestic terrorism." 

Photos have previously emerged from a 2009 rally of Smith holding signs with graphic depictions of then-President Barack Obama and then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Shannon was elected by 8 percentage points against a different Republican candidate in 2018 and his district, the 25th, has previously been a battleground that both Democrats and Republicans sought to hold.

"The recent terrorist plot that was foiled at the state Capitol is horrifying," Chatfield and Wentworth said Saturday. "First responders, legislators, the governor and the public were all targeted, and we denounce these depraved and illegal actions.

"This plot was evil and un-American, and anyone running to serve in the state Legislature ought to know it."