Published December 20, 2015
Two Michigan lawmakers who were forced from office over an extramarital affair and a convoluted cover-up scheme are running Tuesday in crowded primary fields to win back their seats.
Tea party leaders Todd Courser, who resigned in September while facing expulsion, and Cindy Gamrat, who was expelled, are seeking the Republican nominations in special primary elections, which come less than two months after their Sept. 11 ouster.
Their bids are not impossible because so many Republicans are running. There are 11 in Courser's district in Michigan's Thumb region and eight for Gamrat's seat in the southwestern part of the state.
Political action committees for business groups and legislative leaders are throwing their financial support behind the candidates who finished second to Courser and Gamrat in the 2014 primaries -- nurse Jan Peabody and Mary Whiteford -- along with Gary Howell, a candidate in the Courser race. Another candidate who has raised money is Jim Storey, who is running for Gamrat's seat.
An education policy group with ties to one of the state's Republican mega-donors has mailed advertisements attacking Courser and Gamrat for misusing public resources to cover up the affair.
The winners in the conservative districts will be favored in special general elections in March.
In May, Courser sent a sexually explicit phony email to GOP activists and reporters that said he had been caught having sex with a male prostitute behind a Lansing nightclub. The self-smear email called Courser a "bi-sexual porn addicted sex deviant" and "gun toting Bible thumping ... freak" and Gamrat a "tramp."
Courser explained that he thought his tale would make the affair less plausible in case it was revealed by an anonymous extortionist who sent him and Gamrat text messages demanding that he resign.
After the scandal broke in August, the freshmen legislators asked to be censured. But the Republican-led House pursued expulsion.
An apologetic Gamrat admitted to official misconduct and misuse of state resources but said she did not know the email's content. Courser, who also apologized for the relationship, said he sent the email out of desperation. He accused former aides to him and Gamrat of conspiring with a blackmailer and GOP leadership in a "political hit" against him.
The staffers, including one who refused to send the email at Courser's request, have filed a whistleblower and libel/slander lawsuit against Courser and Gamrat.