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Recall petitions approved for Rep. Cam Cavitt, rejected for 7 others lawmakers

Gerald Clixby walks with reporters holding phones
Gerald Clixby, 73, of West Bloomfield had sought to recall state Rep. Noah Arbit, D-West Bloomfield over his sponsorship of bills to expand Michigan hate crime laws to protect gay and disabled residents. A state board rejected the recall effort. (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Republican state Rep. Cam Cavitt targeted with recall petition over vote for Michigan House speaker
  • Canvassers reject petitions against seven other lawmakers as not ‘sufficiently clear’
  • Sponsor must collect thousands of signatures to force recall election

LANSING -- The Michigan Board of State Canvassers on Tuesday authorized sponsors to begin circulating a petition seeking to recall Republican state Rep. Cam Cavitt but effectively rejected petitions targeting seven other lawmakers.

The Cavitt petition, submitted by a fellow GOP voter named Gary Wnuk, seeks to recall the Cheboygan Republican over his support on a procedural vote to name Democratic Rep. Joe Tate of Detroit as House speaker.

Organizers will now have 60 days to collect more than 10,000 voter signatures needed to force a recall election in the 106th House District, a daunting task that hasn’t been successfully completed since lawmakers toughened rules in 2012.

Cavitt did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday but has previously blasted the recall effort as "serving the interests of one political faction rather than addressing the critical priorities of my district and our state."

Rep. Cam Cavitt, R-Cheboygan, has said the recall campaign against him is "serving the interests of one political faction rather than addressing the critical priorities of my district and our state." (Courtesy photo)


Democrats had already selected Tate to be the new state House speaker in January when Cavitt supported a procedural measure to make it official. 

Lawmakers from the minority party traditionally vote for the majority's chosen speaker, and most Republicans backed Tate in the formal vote. But a group of eight conservatives, branding themselves the Freedom Caucus, broke from longstanding tradition to oppose Tate.

The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers voted unanimously to approve the Cavitt recall petition for circulation. 

But the four-member board deadlocked on seven other petitions seeking to recall Republican Rep. Donnie Steele and Democratic Reps. Noah Arbit of West Bloomfield, Betsy Coffia of Traverse City, Sharon MacDonell of Troy, Jennifer Conlin of Ann Arbor, Reggie Miller of Van Buren Township and Jaime Churches of Wyandotte.

Those petitions, which were not approved in a series of 2-2 votes, each sought to recall lawmakers because of their votes on specific pieces of legislation, including hate crime and gun control bills.


Language on the petitions was not "sufficient clear," as required under Michigan law, because sponsors only listed bill numbers without providing any description of the legislation in question, said Chair Mary Ellen Gurewitz, a Democratic appointee. 

Joining her in rejecting the petitions was Republican vice chair Richard Houskamp, who also raised concerns that the petition sponsors appeared to be working as part of a coordinated campaign but had not disclosed any organization ties in discloses. 

Gerald Clixby, a 73-year-old from West Bloomfield, had submitted the recall petition against Arbit, citing legislation the lawmaker sponsored to expand Michigan hate crime laws to protect gay and disabled residents. 

In testimony before the board, Clixby called the recall effort an organic response by concerned citizens. 

"You guys in Lansing don't know what's going on," he told canvassers. "This is grassroots."


Clixby, who could resubmit his recall petition with new language, was frustrated as he left the meeting but said little to reporters. 

"I don't know what I got today," he said, shaking his head. 

Mark Brewer, who fought the recalls as an attorney for House Democrats, applauded canvassers.

The petitions seeking to recall Democrats for supporting new hate crime and gun control measures were "frivolous" because the bills were "popular" with voters in their districts and across the state, Brewer argued after the meeting. 

"This is no more than just harassment of them for doing their jobs a distraction from doing their jobs."

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