- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Two first-term Michigan lawmakers who are under fire for an extramarital relationship and fictional email intended to minimize attention returned to the Capitol Tuesday for the first voting session since the scandal broke.

Republican Rep. Todd Courser of Lapeer, who initially sat with his parents in the public gallery overlooking the chamber, said he was in Lansing because “it’s my job.”

“I still represent my district. It’s important to be able to do that and support the votes,” he said in his first direct comments to reporters, noting the House’s consideration of a $1.2 billion road-funding package. “When you have a situation where we’re moving forward with more taxes, more spending, more government, you need people who are willing to stand … Even though I’m having personal situations, it’s important to take those steps and do the things I’m responsible to do.”

At GOP House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s request, the House Business Office is investigating whether Courser and Republican Rep. Cindy Gamrat of Plainwell, who also was present for session, misused state resources to hide or divert attention from their affair and wrongly fired two aides who refused to help. Courser previously echoed Democrats’ calls for an independent probe but declined to comment Tuesday on whether he thought Michigan’s attorney general should investigate.

Courser apologized last week in an audio statement and admitted to orchestrating a false email sent to Republicans and the media in May claiming he had been caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub, apparently to make his backers not believe or disregard his relationship with Gamrat if it was revealed. He said he concocted the scheme because he was being blackmailed.

Neither Courser nor Gamrat, who apologized last week in her own news conference, plans to resign. The social conservatives from the GOP’s tea party wing could be expelled with a two-thirds vote of the 109-member House. At least one Republican has called for censuring Courser for an unjustified absence from a committee meeting.

Even before the controversy became public, Courser and Gamrat clashed with House leadership. Gamrat was kicked out of the House GOP’s closed-door caucus meetings in April. Courser stopped attending the meetings soon after.

Gamrat occasionally sat at her desk in the House chamber Tuesday but went elsewhere before Republicans first began privately discussing a transportation plan. When Democrats met in their caucus, they were read a letter of apology on Gamrat’s behalf. She had asked to speak to Democrats, but Minority Leader Tim Greimel said he declined because it would be unusual for a House Republican to talk in a Democratic caucus meeting.

Cotter also rejected Gamrat’s request to speak to the GOP caucus.

“I don’t think that is at all productive at this point. We’ve heard the public apology. She’s no longer a member of the caucus,” he said.

Also Tuesday, Republican Mary Whiteford of Casco Township, who lost to Gamrat in the 2014 primary election, announced a run for Gamrat’s Allegan County seat.

“My campaign will be about solutions, not distractions,” she said.

Jake Davison of Mayfield Township launched his campaign for Courser’s seat last month before The Detroit News reported on the affair and potential cover-up.


Follow David Eggert at https://twitter.com/DavidEggert00

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