Patrick Colbeck, who is from Wayne County's Canton Township and is one of three viable GOP gubernatorial candidates, said Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof's move is "swamp politics" and is "exactly what people are ticked off about." He said Meekhof, of West Olive, told him last week he was upset that Colbeck did not notify him of his plan to attend a Right to Life of Michigan fundraising dinner Sept. 26 in Holland, which is in Meekhof's district.
It is customary for senators to tell colleagues in advance if they will be in their district. Colbeck, though, said the circumstances are different because he is traveling frequently as a statewide candidate.
Meekhof's spokeswoman, Amber McCann, said Meekhof acted because of "multiple concerns, not the limited explanation" provided by Colbeck. She declined to elaborate, calling it a caucus matter.
It is rare for lawmakers to lose a committee assignment. Sometimes it happens if they block a bill from passing a committee that leadership wants. Other times, they lose their spot for disciplinary reasons.
Former state Sen. Virgil Smith, a Detroit Democrat, was removed from committees in 2015 after being charged with shooting at his ex-wife's vehicle. State Sen. Bert Johnson, a Highland Park Democrat who has been charged with putting a no-show employee on his office payroll to repay her for $14,000 in personal loans, is still serving on committees.
Colbeck has opposed fellow Republicans for helping to expand Medicaid, raising fuel taxes and endorsing the Common Core education standards. He said that when Meekhof became Senate leader in 2015, Meekhof didn't assign him to chair a committee — making him the only GOP senator to not receive a chairmanship.
Colbeck sent a fundraising email to supporters Wednesday highlighting how he lost his committee assignments Tuesday, saying it "simply highlights why I am running for governor." He promised "a swamp draining in our state the likes of which the political elites have never seen before."
The front-runner Republican gubernatorial candidate is Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. Jim Hines, a Saginaw doctor, also is campaigning.