Michigan GOP chair criticizes state House candidate's comments on rape, Russia

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser on Tuesday criticized comments by a GOP state House candidate that touched on rape and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. 

Weiser was joined in his statement by Kent County GOP Chairman Rob VerHeulen, a former state representative who called on Robert Regan to apologize for his comments.

More:Conservative group condemns west Michigan candidate's comments on rape, Russian invasion

“Mr. Regan’s history of foolish, egregious and offensive comments, including his most recent one, are simply beyond the pale," Weiser said in a statement Tuesday. "We are better than this as a Party and I absolutely expect better than this of our candidates.”

Robert Regan is a Republican candidate for state House District 74 in Kent County.

Regan, a Grand Rapids entrepreneur running for the 74th House District seat, made a comparison during a Sunday livestream between rape and the abandonment of efforts to decertify the 2020 election.

"Having three daughters, I tell my daughters, well, 'If rape is inevitable, you should just lie back and enjoy it.'" Regan said. "That's not how we roll. That's not how I won this election. We go right at it."

Last week, Regan would not say whether he would join a House resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine, likening opposition to the issue to some sort of conspiracy theory. 

Regan also has posted anti-Semitic messages to social media, including a May 2021 post which said: "Feminism is only applied against white men, because it has absolutely nothing to do with protecting women as a sex or defending the feelings of individual women. It is a Jewish program to degrade and subjugate white men."

VerHeulen on Tuesday called Regan's comments appalling. 

"These comments are offensive, dangerous and unbecoming of any candidate for public office," VerHeulen said. "The Kent County Republican Party stands with the Michigan Republican Party, and I believe Mr. Regan owes an apology immediately.”

The statement from Weiser and VerHeulen also linked to comments MRP co-chair Meshawn Maddock made to Bridge Michigan, calling the rape comments "offensive and disappointing."

“I’d like to think he didn’t mean what he said,” Maddock said. “You know, if I could control what our candidates say all the time, that would be a great thing."

House Speaker Jason Wentworth, R-Farwell, said Regan's "offensive comments and flippant attitude" were "simply bizarre."

"This is nowhere near the standard we should expect for state officials," Wentworth said in a statement. "We are just now learning about RJ after his primary win, and everything we're seeing is incredibly disturbing. This is also the first look at RJ for many of the voters he will face in May. They deserve better, and an explanation at the very least." 

Sen. Mark Huizenga, the Walker Republican whose seat Regan is looking to fill, said Regan's comments and posts on social media "are not reflective of our community."

“As a Christian, a public servant and a father of two daughters, I find Robert Regan’s comments about sexual assault to be revolting and immoral, and I strongly denounce them," Huizenga said. 

“His statements about Russia’s unprovoked attack of a sovereign country are contrary to our own nation’s values, and his anti-Semitic posts claiming Jewish people control the banks and were behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks are shameful and disgusting," he added.

The criticisms come a day after the DeVos-backed Michigan Freedom Fund denounced Regan's comments as "despicable and disqualifying" and should serve as proof that he is "unworthy to serve." 

Regan finished first last week in a four-way race in the GOP primary for the 74th House District seat. He took 33% of the vote and Stephen Gilbert finished second with 32% of the vote. 

Regan is the favorite in the May 3 special election against Democratic candidate Carol Glanville for the seat in a Republican stronghold that was left vacant when Huizenga was elected to a state Senate vacancy.

If elected in May, Regan would hold the seat until December.


Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.