Whitmer appoints Freedom Fund leader as new GOP state canvasser

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — The executive director of the conservative Michigan Freedom Fund will be the latest GOP state canvasser, replacing Aaron Van Langevelde whom the Republican Party declined to renominate after he cast the deciding November vote to certify President-elect Joe Biden's win in Michigan. 

Tony Daunt of DeWitt will serve on the Board of State Canvassers for four years through Jan. 31, 2025, as the second Republican member of the four-member bipartisan board. 

Daunt and the Michigan Freedom Fund have spoken out about false and unproven election claims and, on Monday, Daunt said Van Langevelde acted appropriately in choosing to certify Biden's 154,000-vote lead in Michigan. 

On Tuesday, Daunt said he appreciated the appointment and acknowledged former canvasser Van Langevelde's work on the board.

“The Board of State Canvassers requires leaders willing to follow the rule of law and to provide honest leadership, and I am honored to be entrusted with this position," Daunt said in a statement. "Aaron Van Langevelde served with honor and integrity, and the entire state owes him a debt of gratitude. Our republic depends on fair and secure elections, and I’m committed to upholding those values.”

Tony Daunt testifies in front of a state House Committee in 2017.

The Michigan Freedom Fund, which Daunt directs, is a conservative policy group backed by West Michigan's DeVos family. Whitmer has frequently criticized former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

The other Republican canvasser Norm Shinkle is an adviser for the Michigan Freedom Fund.

Whitmer, a Democrat, also renominated Jeannette Bradshaw of Ortonville as one of two Democratic members of the four-member board. She has served on the board since 2013, and her new term will keep her on the board through Jan. 31, 2025. 

Republican Shinkle and Democrat Julie Matuzak are not up for renomination to the board until 2023. 

The appointments of Daunt and Bradshaw will go next to the Senate's Advice and Consent Committee, where Sen. Jim Stamas, R-Midland, has promised delays in approval if the governor fails to ease COVID-19 restrictions. 

The Michigan Republican Party on Jan. 8 nominated Daunt along with party activists Tori Sachs and Linda Lee Tarver for the position. 

They declined to renominate Van Langevelde, arguing he didn't express interest in the position. 

Van Langevelde told The Detroit News Monday he was never approached for the position and said he was not surprised by the decision. 

“My conscience is clear, and I am confident that my decision is on the right side of the law and history,” Van Langevelde said in a Monday statement. “Time will tell that those who spread misinformation and tried to overturn the election were wrong, and they should be held responsible for the chaos and confusion they have caused.”

Van Langevelde's Republican colleague on the board, Shinkle, abstained from voting on the measure after intense pressure to delay or decline to certify the results — usually a procedural vote — based on unproven claims of election fraud.

In the days since the vote, Van Langevelde said he's had to take measures to protect his family. He warned GOP leaders on Monday that their "extreme partisanship" had triggered "constitutional chaos" and a "loss of our honor and dignity."

“It was clear in November that the political games needed to stop — it is even more clear now,” Van Langevelde said. “The United States Capitol has been sacked, and our state Capitol is under threat. The country is torn along partisan lines, and people have died because of it. It’s time for our leaders to tell the truth, even when it is politically inconvenient, and to put our country and the people over party politics.”

Daunt previously served as the director of constituent relations for Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder, a director within the Michigan Republican Party and communications director for former Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.