LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A defiant Michigan lawmaker who was expelled from office for her role in covering up an extramarital affair with another legislator filed Thursday to run for her old House seat, less than a week after her colleagues kicked her out.
Cindy Gamrat, who unsuccessfully sought a censure instead of expulsion, was among five Republicans who submitted paperwork a day before the deadline for a special primary election in the district left vacant when she was expelled on a 91-12 vote and immediately escorted out of the House chamber after 4 a.m. on Sept. 11.
The primary will be held Nov. 3, with a special general election to follow on March 8 in the GOP-heavy districts.
“All along I’ve maintained that I felt like the voters should decide. I’m going to continue to fight for them to have a voice in this,” Gamrat, a 42-year-old tea party leader from Plainwell, north of Kalamazoo, told The Associated Press in a phone interview.
Fellow tea party Republican Todd Courser of Lapeer in the Thumb region resigned an hour before Gamrat’s expulsion rather than be expelled himself. He said Wednesday he had not decided whether to run.
Courser sent a false, sexually explicit email to GOP activists and others in May claiming he had been caught with a male prostitute. The email was intended to make his affair with Gamrat less believable if it was exposed by what Courser said was an anonymous blackmailer demanding his resignation.
Gamrat has admitted to discussing the email with Courser and knowing he would discuss options with their then-aide Ben Graham, but she has said she had no advance knowledge of the “specific and offensive things” in it.
A House Business Office report alleged dishonesty, misconduct and a misuse of public resources in violation of House rules by the pair of self-described social conservatives, but cited no specific crimes except possible campaign-finance law abuses. The state police and attorney general are investigating.
Gamrat faces a rematch with “establishment” favorite Mary Whiteford, who finished second in the 2014 GOP primary.
Gamrat, who was confronted by angry constituents at a meeting days before her expulsion, said some have asked her to “stand strong” and one woman gave her a hug while Gamrat was jogging. She emphasized her conservative credentials such as opposing efforts to increase fuel taxes to improve deteriorating roads and noted that the top lawyer for the GOP-led House - who also is Speaker Kevin Cotter’s chief of staff - recommended she be censured, not expelled.
With the departure of Gamrat and Courser, the number of votes needed to pass a minimum $1.2 billion road-funding plan with fuel and vehicle registration tax hikes is 54 instead of 56. Asked whether that was a factor in her expulsion, Gamrat said “a lot of factors go into people’s decisions” but “it makes it a lot easier to raise taxes now without our voices there.”
Courser, 43, told WKAR-TV’s “Off the Record” show on Wednesday that he would not consider running to succeed himself without his wife’s support. The deadline is 4 p.m. Friday, and six Republicans had filed as of Thursday.
“There’s a lot of healing that needs to happen. Look, I screwed up big,” said Courser, who said the “vast majority” of House members never reviewed the evidence compiled by the House Business Office.
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