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Daley, Howell may square off (From 1-22-17 Lapeer County Press)

GOP heavyweights consider Senate bid
810-452-2640 •

 Prior to Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address on Tuesday, Deerfield Township Republican Rep. Gary Howell (right) chats with former representative Kevin Daley of Arcadia Township. Howell recently took the oath of office for his first full term in the Michigan Legislature after first winning a special election to fill the remainder of the term vacated when Todd Courser resigned. Photo by Jeff Hogan

Prior to Gov. Rick Snyder’s State of the State address on Tuesday, Deerfield Township Republican RepGary Howell (right) chats with former representative Kevin Daley of Arcadia Township. Howell recently took the oath of office for his first full term in the Michigan Legislature after first winning a special election to fill the remainder of the term vacated when Todd Courser resigned. Photo by Jeff Hogan

MAYFIELD TWP. — Local and statewide politics in 2017 just got interesting.

At a Thursday evening meeting of the Lapeer County Republican Party held at Mayfield Township hall, former 82nd state representative Kevin Daley announced he would run for the state Senate seat that could be vacated if 31st District Sen. Mike Green is tapped by the Donald Trump administration to serve as director of the Michigan office of the United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDARural Development.

Lapeer County’s current state rep, Gary Howell, R-Deerfield Township, who was also in attendance at the GOP meeting at Thursday night, told the audience that he too is giving consideration to run for the 31st Senate seat that includes the counties of Lapeer, Tuscola and Bay if Green were to get the USDA job.

Daley, 59, of Arcadia Township, was our 82nd House representative from 2009 to 2015 when he was term-limited from running again because he had served the constitutionally allowed three, two-year terms.

Todd Courser of Clifford won the subsequent general election to serve the 82nd seat only to resign in shame on Sept. 11, 2015 following an extramarital affair and cover-up plot he concocted to cover his relations with then state Rep. Cindy Gamrat who was expelled from the state House.

Green anticipates he will hear from the Trump administration within a month or so on whether the Michigan job is his, but has been assured his standing is excellent and he has a good chance to head the Michigan office of the USDA.

If that happens it’s possible Daley and Howell will go headto head in a special primary election for the 31st Senate seat that Green has held since 2010.

Michigan State Senate terms are four years, while state House terms are two years. In Michigan, state senators can hold office for only two terms. In the House, representatives may serve three, two-year terms.

Daley made an August 2014 primary bid for the 31st Senate seat, though he came up short against incumbent Green who was better known than Daley in Tuscola and Bay counties. In Lapeer County, Daley slammed Green 6,576 to 2,423, but it was in the northern part of the district that Daley did not do as well — though he didn’t miss the opportunity to move on to the general election by much.

In what was then a threeway primary race in 2014 in the three-county district, Green took 10,409 votes (49 percent), to Daley’s 9,756 (46 percent) followed by L. Jeffrey Phillips of Caro in a distant third with 341 votes (4 percent). Unlike Lapeer County, in Bay County the majority of elected offices are held by Democrats. President Trump, however, flipped the working class county in November to handily defeat Hillary Clinton much like he did in 12 other Michigan counties.

“It’s not an easy decision, but I think I have another 10 good years in me,” Daley told The County Press on Friday. “My wife and family are on board with my decision … I’ve got a great relationship with many senators already and certainly in the House where I served. That’s what you need to have in order to get anything done. It’s about relationships and trust.”

Daley indicated he has filed the necessary paperwork with the Michigan Bureau of Elections to establish a campaign committee that would allow him to raise money for a primary election should Green get the USDA post.

Howell, 69, commented, “First, I think it’s premature to be having this discussion. We don’t know if he (Green) will be offered the job. But having said that I’m giving very serious consideration to running for the Senate seat should it become open.”

He continued, “My goal is to be an effective legislator. I think I can be even more effective for Lapeer County and the state in the Senate.”

The Michigan Senate includes 38 members, while the House has 110 members.

“The Senate has fewer people, and there’s more opportunity to serve in a leadership role or be on an influential committee,” Howell told The County Press on Friday. “I’m honored to serve on either body, but generally it’s possible to get more done on the Senate side.”

Howell won a November 2015 special primary election that determined the Republican and Democrat candidates who run to serve the remainder of Courser’s two-year term. That primary brought out a crowded field of 11 Republican candidates that included Courser who ran for the seat he had just resigned from. In a March 2016 special general election Howell defeated Democratic challenger Margaret Guerrero DeLuca of Imlay City to win the final 10 months of Courser’s term in the Michigan House. Howell and Guerrero DeLuca squared off again last November with Howell winning his first full term in the state House by a wide margin. That new term that began earlier this month runs through Dec. 31, 2018.

Daley, a 1975 graduate of Lapeer High School, over the course of 24 years served as trustee, treasurer and then supervisor of Arcadia Township. “I still have some in the tank and I think I still have the connections to be effective in Lansing for Lapeer County and Michigan,” Daley said.

Daley takes issue with Howell’s expressed interest to run for the Senate seat if Green resigns to work for President Trump.

“He told people he had no other desire to do anything but run for the 82nd seat. I think it’s wrong what he’s thinking of doing,” Daley said.

“We just went through a long period here in Lapeer County during the whole Courser mess when we didn’t have representation in the House, and now we might have that all over again if Gary (Howell) runs,” Daley said.

What’s next?

If Green gets the USDA job, a special primary election would need to be called by the State of Michigan in Lapeer, Tuscola and Bay counties. Following a primary, a special general election would follow several months later.

Lapeer County Clerk Theresa Spencer was at Thursday’s meeting of the local Republican Party when Daley made his announcement, followed by Howell’s statement that he too would consider a run for Green’s Senate seat.

“I wasn’t surprised when he said it to the body that was there,” said Spencer. “After I read in the paper that Green was in the running for the USDA position I kind of figured that Kevin might be interested to run again. But he probably didn’t think Gary would run against him. It should be pretty interesting if that happens.”

Michigan election law allows for three scheduled elections each year — in May, August and November. “I need to check with the State, because maybe there’s some fine print that would allow the state to schedule a special election other than the three months mentioned,” Spencer said.

In order to run a May primary election, said Spencer, the filing deadline would be Feb. 7 which looks doubtful since it’s unlikely the new agriculture department secretary just nominated by President Trump will be confirmed in time to appoint Green to the Michigan post.

The next opportunity for an election — August — would require a filing deadline in the third week of April.

Spencer anticipates the cost to conduct a special primary election would be borne by county and local government.

Following Courser’s resignation, the special November 2015 primary election that began the process to fill the vacant seat was estimated to cost Lapeer County taxpayers more than $121,000 — money that had been not budgeted and therefore had to be found elsewhere in county coffers.

“Hang on and we’ll see what happens,” Spencer said.

Michigan State Senate

• Salary: $71,685 plus expenses per year makes Michigan state senators and representatives the fourth highest paid legislators in the country.

• Term: Four years, with a limit of two terms.

• Currently in its 99th session, the Michigan State Senate is comprised by 38 members elected from individual districts throughout the state. The Lieutenant Governor of Michigan, currently Brian Calley (R), carries the role of Senate President. The Republican Party holds the majority, led by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof of Michigan’s 30th District.

Michigan House of Representatives

• Salary: $71,685, plus expenses.

• Term: Two years, with a limit of three terms.

• Also in its 99th session that began Jan. 11 of this year, the Michigan House of Representatives consists of 110 members elected from constituencies in the state.

The Michigan House is led by a Republican majority with Tom Leonard acting as Speaker of the House.

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