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Leonard Kickstarts Speaker Race With June Fundraiser

June 21, 2016

The race for the next House Republican leader has moved into the “naming supporters” stage.

Rep. Tom LEONARD (R-DeWitt) posted to Facebook last week an invitation to a fundraiser for his leadership fund, Michigan Values Leadership Fund, later this month, featuring former Gov. John ENGLER.

The invitation lists 16 incumbent House Republicans on the fundraiser’s host committee. MIRS confirmed 12 of the 16 as solid supporters of Leonard for Leader next session, although all are presumed to be supporters.

Rep. Tom BARRETT (R-Potterville) gave his full-throated support for Leonard. “I am fully supportive of his leadership because I think he’ll do a tremendous job for our caucus,” said Barrett of his longtime friend.

Barrett said Leonard has a “strong number of commitments” in his bid for Speaker, presuming Republicans retain majority. With potentially 16 members of his caucus on board and Leonard himself, Leonard has secured 47 percent of the caucus’ 36 Republicans eligible to return next year.

A source supporting Rep. Rob VerHEULEN (R-Walker) reported that 17 members are behind VerHeulen for the caucus’s leader. VerHeulen has held back thus far in the race for Speaker. The VerHeulen Leadership Fund reported raising $37,550 with $65,294.24 in cash on hand.

By contrast, Leonard’s Michigan Values Leadership Fund raised $71,200 for the first quarter with a total cash on hand of $136,696.24.

“I think it’s a bit premature on his part because we don’t know about the majority, yet,” said Rep. Mike MCCREADY (R-Birmingham) of Leonard’s early moves toward the Speakership.

This cycle there are 16 Republican seats in play. Leonard said he felt “very, very good” about retaining the Republican majority.

“My main goal is ensuring that I never have to say ‘Mr. Speaker’ to a Democrat, but I do believe Tom Leonard is the most equipped to lead our caucus next term and that’s why I fully support him,” Rep. Lee CHATFIELD (R-Levering) said.

Many members of Leonard’s host committee described themselves as “early” supporters of Leonard for Speaker. “Tom asked me early and often,” said Rep. Eric LEUTHEUSER (R-Hillsdale).

“The goal we want to accomplish here is to raise as many funds as we can to protect and preserve our members,” Leonard told MIRS.

As Speaker Pro Tem, Leonard was frequently in the rostrum during the House’s deliberations on the Detroit Public Schools rescue package. Rep. Aaron MILLER (R-Sturgis) said he felt Leonard handled himself well in the rostrum during tough moments.

Leonard was at the rostrum during the House’s first vote on its DPS package and its final vote concurring on the Senate-amended version. Both votes ended in a clash with House Democrats over procedure.

Rep. Laura COX (R-Livonia) described Leonard as a “good negotiator,” who is relied upon by current Speaker Kevin COTTER (R-Mt. Pleasant).

“Part of being Speaker is being able to know people who have good relationship with members and having a good idea of who get gets along with whom.” Cox said.

The 16 members listed on Leonard’s host committee are:

– Rep. Tom BARRETT (R-Pottersville)

– Rep. Ed CANFIELD (R-Sebewaing)

– Rep. Lee CHATFIELD (R-Levering)

– Rep. Triston COLE (R-Mancelona)

– Rep. Laura COX (R-Livonia)

– Rep. Gary GLENN (R-Midland)

– Rep. Gary HOWELL (R-Lapeer)

– Rep. Martin HOWRYLAK (R-Troy)

– Rep. Larry INMAN (R-Williamsburg)

– Rep. Tim KELLY (R-Saginaw)

– Rep. Dan LAUWERS (R-Brockway)

– Rep. Eric LEUTHEUSER (R-Hillsdale)

– Rep. Aaron MILLER (R-Sturgis)

– Rep. Jim RUNESTAD (R- White Lake)

– Rep. Lana THEIS (R-Brighton)

– Rep. Hank VAUPEL (R-Fowlerville)

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