State Rep. Todd Courser (R-Mich.) knew his fate had been sealed in an all-night Michigan House session held to debate whether he should be censured or expelled from the Michigan Legislature.
The former Tea Party favorite would become a former state legislator in another two hours. He decided to resign rather than wait to be formerly expelled.
Courser told reporters, “It was time to take that step.”
He and state Rep. Cindy Gamrat (R-Mich.) were accused of violating voter trust and misusing state money in connection with an extramarital love affair they conducted while in office.
Gamrat said she was wrong and apologized. However, Gamrat said she deserved censure, not expulsion.
In what could be proof Courser and Gamrat, both freshman legislators, were not ready for the reality and rigors of Michigan political life, Gamrat set herself up for expulsion, though, by agreeing to the result of a state House investigation.
She told MLive.com she did not want to sign what she thought was a censure agreement because “there was a whole bunch of things in the report I haven’t done.”
But Gamrat said her attorney advised her “it was going to be very ugly” if she didn’t, so Gamrat finally put pen to paper and scrawled out her signature.
Mistake. She thought that was the first step to the censure agreement that would have allowed her to continue serving in the Michigan Legislature. Turned out it just set her up for expulsion. She fell even harder than her lover.
Their affair became a nationwide scandal. Courser tried, but failed, to cover up the affair by forcing an aide to send out an email that would make it seem like the Republican was just trying to figure out who in the “Establishment machine” was trying to blackmail him.
Courser warned his Facebook followers the end was near at 1 a.m. EDT Sept. 11: “Well the republican leadership barred the doors and forbid our leaving the building today and they have kept us in the Capitol since about 1pm. They closed the session out at midnight; now it’s past midnight and we are starting a new day, with a new invocation and a new pledge. It looks like we will now vote a third time to expel me. The leadership intends to keep us here until they get the votes they need to expel me. I want to thank all of you for your prayers on all of this; and if you are still praying tonight I can’t thank you enough.”
Two hours later he resigned, one hour before the House voted 91-12 to expel Gamrat.
The fates of these star-crossed lovers — who aides said would leave their legislative offices together in a whirlwind, only to return hours later famished and demanding food — were sealed when the leadership of the Michigan Republican Party said they had to go.
“I commend the Select Committee for their quick approval of resolutions expelling both representatives,” Michigan Republican Party Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel said in a statement released by her office the day before Courser and Gamrat were ousted.
“The evidence clearly showed that Representatives Courser and Gamrat violated their oaths of office and the trust their constituents placed in them. Residents of the 80th and 82nd House Districts deserve effective representation and, unfortunately, as long as both Representatives Gamrat and Courser are still in the House, they will only serve as a distraction,” she added.
“I encourage all Representatives to act in the best interest of Michigan residents by voting to expel Representatives Courser and Gamrat. Now is not the time to play politics, and it would be a shame if any of the representatives put politics before the interests of the people.”
There could be no doubt after that. Courser and Gamrat needed to get their resumes updated as soon as possible.
House Speaker Kevin Cotter (R) said there was no other option available.
“Now that the House has fulfilled its constitutional responsibility to investigate and judge the qualifications of its members, we are wrapping up our part in this process by accepting the resignation of Representative Courser and expelling Representative Gamrat,” Cotter said in a statement released after Courser resigned and Gamrat was expelled.
Courser sounded tired and resigned to his fate when he spoke with reporters on the floor of the House after tendering his resignation.
“I’ll go get in my truck, find a place to park and go to sleep,” said Courser. “I’ll wake up in the morning. The sun will come up and we will go on from there”
He might be overly optimistic about life returning to normal.
Just as Courser and Gamrat would be well advised to print their resumes and move on with their professional lives, they should probably keep their attorneys’ contact information handy.
“Given the serious findings of the House Business Office, findings admitted to by both of the representatives under oath,” Cotter said, “we are requesting that the Michigan State Police and Attorney General open an investigation into the behavior and antics of the representatives as described in House Resolutions 141 and 145.”
There is not much that happens in the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature on a bipartisan basis. But Democratic House Leader Rep. Tim Greimel agreed with Rep. Cotter on this issue.
“For many weeks, the House Democratic Caucus has consistently called for an independent investigation by a law enforcement agency into the serious criminal allegations involving Representatives Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat,” Greimel said in a statement released by his office.
“Rep Courser’s resignation and Rep Gamrat’s expulsion do not change that. As a result of the amended resolutions requesting such an investigation by both the Michigan State Police and Attorney General Bill Schuette, we are confident that there will finally be an independent investigation into this matter,” Greimel added.
“We are pleased this page has been turned and look forward to the findings of the Michigan State Police.”