Colbeck claims ex-Michigan Senate leader issued duel challenge; others remember differently

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Ex-Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck says the state Senate's former Republican leader, Arlan Meekhof, once challenged him to a duel during a caucus meeting, but others in the room recall the situation differently.

Colbeck mentioned the alleged events that took place during the 2017-18 term in a Friday letter to Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan, the chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee. The correspondence focused on conservative Canton Township Republican's potential appearance before the panel to discuss the 2020 election. Colbeck used the encounter with Meekhof as an example of the "political environment in Lansing."

"I was even the target of firearm brandishing in caucus by Senator Meekhof and subsequently challenged to a duel in front of members of the MI Senate Republican caucus for the grievous sin of disagreeing with him on policy direction (ironically, I was in opposition to his gun control proposals)," wrote Colbeck, listing times when he believes he has paid "the price of courage."

Former state senator Patrick Colbeck speaks on the steps of the Capitol as President Donald Trump supporters gather at the state Capitol Building  in Lansing for a "Stop the Steal" rally disputing the presidential voting Saturday, October 14, 2020.

However, others who were in the closed-door caucus meeting remembered the details differently. Meekhof, who left the Michigan Senate at the end of 2018 because of term limits, didn't immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.

Former Sen. Rick Jones, a Grand Ledge Republican who had previously been a county sheriff, said Meekhof never "brandished" his weapon in caucus toward Colbeck.

"I was there," Jones said Friday morning. "I watched the exchange of words. He never pulled out a pistol or a revolver."

Jones added, "There was no gun drawn."

To Jones' memory, Meekhof never specifically mentioned a duel but said something like, "Maybe, we should step outside?"

Another source who declined to be identified because of the usual secrecy surrounding legislative caucus meetings, which take place in private, said Meekhof didn't brandish his weapon but mentioned something along the lines of a duel.

Colbeck, a conservative from Canton Township, served two terms in the Michigan Senate from 2011 through 2018. Meekhof, who's from west Michigan, was the Senate's leader from 2015 through 2018. The two often clashed over policy, including in 2017 when Colbeck lost his committee assignments. At the time, Colbeck said the punishment was “a petty, political response” to his gubernatorial campaign.

He came in third place in the GOP primary race for governor in 2018 with 13% of the vote. Then-Attorney General Bill Schuette received 51%, and then-Lt. Gov. Brian Calley got 25%.

In a letter to Sen. Ed McBroom, former Michigan Sen. Patrick Colbeck describes an alleged duel challenge issued by former Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof.

In a Friday email, Colbeck said the halls of Lansing "are not a pleasant environment for folks trying to do the right thing." 

He said his response to the alleged duel challenge was something like, "I am not ready to channel my inner Alexander Hamilton," referring to the 1804 duel between then-Vice President Aaron Burr and the former treasury secretary.

Colbeck has been one of the most vocal voices in Michigan about raising unsubstantiated claims of rampant fraud in the 2020 election. Democrat Joe Biden won the presidential race in the state by 3 percentage points or 154,000 votes over the Republican incumbent Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, Dominion Voting Systems, the company that provides vote-tabulating technology for the majority of Michigan counties, sent Colbeck a letter demanding he retract unsubstantied claims he's been making about the election.

Michigan Sen. Majority leader Arlan Meekhof, (R-West Olive) listens as Representative Rob VerHeulen (R-Walker) testifies before the Senate committee on Governmental Operations Tuesday.

Last week, McBroom, whose committee has been examining the election, sent Colbeck a two-page letter about Colbeck potentially appearing before the panel for a second time. McBroom said he is concerned that Colbeck is "ignoring truth" about the election.

"Are you also prepared to be under oath to answer additional questions about yourself?" McBroom wrote in the letter to Colbeck. "The chair will not prevent committee members from inquiring into the allegations made against you in lawsuits or media when they are relevant to your testimony regarding the 2020 election."

In a Friday response, Colbeck said he is willing to testify under oath.

"To be frank, I am not looking forward to testifying before your committee," Colbeck added. "Please do not construe this as fear of your committee or fear of testifying to the truth. My reluctance is based upon my observation of the political environment in Lansing that comes from eight years of public service.

"Politics seems to bring out the worst in people who would otherwise seek to do what is right."

Colbeck said his legislation had previously been "blacklisted" and he lost his committee assignments "the day after advising Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof that I did not work for him. I worked for the people of Michigan."

Then he listed the alleged duel challenge as another example of the "price of courage."