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Courser resigns, Gamrat expelled

Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.
From Courser/Gamrat websites
Former Michigan Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat.

State Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer, resigned early this morning as the House was about to vote on expelling him. That capped a 15-hour session with three earlier efforts that were thwarted. Courser says he called it quits because he could see how it would wind up.

“You know, it’s an unfortunate chapter where we’re at, obviously, for the state House, for the state, for the Legislature, for my own family," said Courser. "It’s to turn a page and take a step forward and go in a different direction.”

Courser and state Rep. Cindy Gamrat, R-Plainwell, were involved in a sex-and-cover-up scandal that’s roiled the state Capitol for many weeks.

"I have done everything to redeem this situation, and I am sincerely sorry for what it's caused, and I don't know what else I could have done more."

Gamrat was expelled by the required two-thirds majority of the House. She said she deserved to be censured for her role, but not removed.

“I have done everything to redeem this situation, and I am sincerely sorry for what it’s caused, and I don’t know what else I could have done more.”

Gamrat is only the fourth Michigan lawmaker to be expelled in the state’s history, although others have resigned as they were about to be removed.

The drama surrounding the removal of state Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat dragged through yesterday afternoon and into this morning as the lawmakers fought to keep their jobs.

The effort to expel Todd Courser was first on the agenda.

Many hours of floor debate, cajoling, and, finally, a standoff that lasted through the night ended with Courser walking to the front of the House chamber to hand the clerk a brief letter of resignation. Courser then walked back to his desk, collected his things and was escorted out of the chamber by three red-coated sergeant-at-arms, who confiscated his key cards that got him into the parking lot, the House Office Building, and the state Capitol.

Courser said it had become clear he might have delayed the result for a while, but the end was inevitable.

"It felt like they were just going to go until they got their answer,” Courser said.

Reporters caught up with Courser as he left the Capitol early this morning:

But Cindy Gamrat decided she was not going to leave without making the House vote on it.

"I still believe my actions may warrant censure, but not expulsion,” she said.

Gamrat said she’s apologized, worked to make amends with her colleagues, her constituents,  and her family. She said she kept a promise to work with the House through the process and affirm the findings of an internal misconduct inquiry.

Courser and Gamrat are the two Tea Partiers who’ve been a thorny and combative presence in the Republican caucus for a year and a half, and now faced expulsion for using public resources in an over-the-top plot to use a salacious e-mail riddled with falsehoods to cover up their extra-marital affair.

"This is nothing to celebrate, but I think it was a very necessary process. I think there's been a cloud hanging over us for some time ..."

But Republican House Speaker Kevin Cotter, R-Mount Pleasant, said there was no joy in getting rid of these two nettlesome characters.

“This is nothing to celebrate, but I think it was a very necessary process. I think there’s been a cloud hanging over us for some time, and it was important that we came together tonight, this morning, and ultimately addressed it,” Cotter said.

But what was initially supposed to be swift and sure punishment stalled as House Republican leaders apparently didn’t count the votes before they put the question on the board.

The Michigan Constitution requires a two-thirds super-majority to remove a legislator – that adds up to 73 votes in the House, so Republicans needed the support of Democrats to make that number.

But a lot of Democrats either voted “no” or simply refused to vote through the night because they said, the process failed to look into House Speaker Kevin Cotter’s role in the whole affair.

Republicans agreed to send all the materials from the inquiry to the Michigan State Police and the Attorney General’s office. And House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, said that was enough to settle the issue.

“We were very concerned about the lack of probative investigation that took place. We believe that it was an attempt to kick things under the rug, to cover things up, and we believe we needed a further, in-depth investigation by a law enforcement agency,” Greimel said.

But that did not stop Greimel and other Democrats from voting to expel Gamrat without waiting for the results of that investigation.

Asked when the investigation had been opened, the Attorney General's office had no further comment.

A special committee recommended that both representatives be expelled. After a stalemate Thursday night, Gamrat was expelled and Courser resigned early Friday morning.

The Michigan State Police said early Friday morning they would honor any requests to investigate from the House.

Attorney General Bill Schuette's office, in a statement released Friday morning, said an investigation into embattled former Reps. Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat has already been opened.

"We previously have opened an investigation of the Courser-Gamrat matter.  Additionally, the Attorney General has discussed this issue with Col. Kriste Etue of the Michigan State Police. We will work with the MSP and conduct a joint investigation, which will be complete and thorough, without fear or favor," said spokesperson John Sellek.

*This post has been updated.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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