ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. — In her first candidate forum since announcing her candidacy for her former 80th District House seat, expelled Rep. Cindy Gamrat won in a straw poll against her eight GOP competitors.
All eight Republican candidates were invited, but only six participated in the Tuesday forum hosted by the Allegan County Tea Party, where candidates where each given an opportunity to speak and answer questions from the audience, according to a news release. One Democrat is also running.
Gamrat took 35 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s straw poll. The next closest vote-getters included Bill Sage, Jim Storey and Shannon Szukala with 29, 16 and 10 percent, respectively.
Kevin Travis, Mary Whiteford, Eric DeWitt and James A. Siver rounded out the bottom of the list. Travis and Whiteford received 7 and 3 percent, respectively. DeWitt and Siver did not receive any votes.
“Bill Sage, Shannon Szukala & Kevin Travis would all be considered possessing or at least holding close to the same values as the Allegan County Tea Party,” according to a post on the Allegan County Tea Party’s Facebook page.
The post goes on to say, Storey and DeWitt “would be considered conservative by most Republicans, but not necessarily constitutional,” while Whiteford is “a Democrat, running as a Republican.”
Whiteford ran against Gamrat in the 2014 primary and came in second place. She did not attend Tuesday’s forum.
“All along I have fought for the right for the voters of Allegan County to have a voice in this process,” Gamrat told FOX 17, a position she’s been vocal about since the beginning.
“Lansing’s voice is not Allegan’s voice.”
Despite being expelled, the state Bureau of Elections ruled earlier this week that Gamrat is eligible to run for her old seat in an upcoming special election.
The question of whether the embattled former representative is eligible to hold her seat will be something now left to the state House to answer, per guidelines in the state constitution.
“It’s definitely an open question,” Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for the House Speaker’s Office told FOX 17 on Monday. “There’s no real direct precedent for this, we’re still looking out our options to get a definitive answer.”
Gamrat, R-Plainwell, was expelled earlier in September following accusations she’d engaged in misconduct and subsequently misused taxpayer resources to hide her affair with fellow freshman lawmaker Rep. Todd Courser, R-Lapeer.
Courser later resigned the same morning. He is also re-running for his former seat in Lapeer, Mich. against 10 other Republican candidates.
The special election is set for Nov. 3.