U.S. News

Two Michigan state lawmakers lose seats over affair cover-up

DETROIT (Reuters) - One Michigan lawmaker resigned on Friday and another was removed from office by a vote in the state House of Representatives as police launched a criminal probe into their admitted use of tax funds to cover up their extramarital affair.

The two former representatives, Todd Courser and Cindy Gamrat, who are both Republicans and Tea Party members, apologized during a special House committee hearing this week for using their staff members to try to cover up their affair.

Courser resigned around 3 a.m. Friday, following a whirlwind session that centered on his possible expulsion. Gamrat was removed from office by a vote of the full House about an hour later.

They had both asked to be censured, which would have allowed them to remain in office.

The two Democrats on the six-member special committee abstained from the panel’s vote to expel Courser and Gamrat, contending their Republican counterparts had rushed the House investigation for political reasons.

But early Friday, Republicans had secured enough support to meet the two-thirds majority of affirmative votes in the full House required to remove a lawmaker.

Courser then tendered his resignation, effective immediately, before the Republican-led legislature could vote on his expulsion.

Democrats agreed to expel Gamrat once Republicans offered support for a resolution to have the state police investigate the matter. Republicans needed Democrats to reach the two-thirds threshold.

Michigan State Police said in a statement that it would “honor the requests made by the Legislature ... to investigate potential criminal wrongdoing by Representative Courser and Representative Gamrat.” A police official declined further comment.

Governor Rick Snyder, a Republican, said he supported the state police probe.

“This matter needs to be resolved and an investigation by MSP will provide further clarity,” he said in a statement. “I hope this investigation helps bring closure to the issues for all involved.”

Gamrat becomes just the fourth lawmaker in Michigan history to have been expelled, dating back to 1887.

Gamrat and Courser could not be reached for comment on Friday.

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley said in a statement that a primary election would be held on Nov. 3 and a general election on March 8, 2016, to fill the seats.

Reporting by Ryan Felton; Editing by Eric Walsh and Eric Beech