Gov. Whitmer picks Grand Rapids Republican for seat on key elections board

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Grand Rapids Republican Richard Houskamp on Tuesday to fill a position on the Board of State Canvassers, the panel in charge of certifying Michigan elections.

Houskamp, CEO of the technology company Neural Planet, will fill a Republican seat that had been held by Norm Shinkle for more than a decade. Shinkle, who's currently campaigning for the Michigan House, resigned on June 21.

Chairman Norman Shinkle speaks as the Michigan State board of Canvassers meets in Lansing to hear pleas to place candidates on the official ballot.

In an interview Tuesday, Houskamp, 66, said he will focus on following state election laws and the Michigan Constitution. 

"I really, truly am trying to approach this opportunity in a very impartial and nonpartisan way," he said.

The Michigan Republican Party had to nominate three individuals for Shinkle's position, one of two GOP seats on the four-member board. Houskamp was not among the original nominees from the party. They were Michael Hewitt of Grand Rapids, Steve Yoder of Cedar and state Rep. Julie Calley of Portland.

Because the Michigan Constitution says no individual elected to the state Legislature "shall receive any civil appointment within this state from the governor," Whitmer's office asked the GOP for another nominee, instead of Calley, on June 29. Whitmer is a Democrat.

The Michigan Republican Party then nominated Houskamp as a replacement for Calley.

Houskamp has been involved with Michigan GOP politics for years.

His appointment comes as Republican scrutiny of elections increases in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

Former President Donald Trump, a Republican, has maintained unproven claims that fraud cost him Michigan's race in 2020.

He lost the state to Democrat Joe Biden by 154,000 votes or 3 percentage points.

Houskamp told MLive earlier this month, "Do I believe that fraud exists in elections? Sure ... Do I believe that Donald Trump had the election stolen in Michigan? No, I don’t.”

On Tuesday, Houskamp told The Detroit News said he didn't want to look backwards and couldn't say how he would have handled the 2020 election.

"I haven’t seen any evidence of widespread fraud," he added. "But I don’t think anyone has seen any evidence of widespread fraud.”

Shinkle was the lone member of the Board of State Canvassers who didn't vote to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. Instead, he abstained.

Houskamp's new term will end Jan. 31, 2023. The appointment is subject to the advice and consent of the Michigan Senate.