Former state Sen. Nancy Cassis said Thursday that Republican leaders were uniting behind her as a write-in candidate for the Michigan congressional seat held by Thaddeus McCotter, who was kicked off the ballot after the majority of nominating signatures submitted by his campaign were found to be invalid.
Cassis, 68, of Novi, said she plans to put $200,000 of her own money into the race and transfer the remaining $80,000 left in her Senate campaign fund. Former state Sen. Loren Bennett of Wayne County's Canton Township has given up his own write-in campaign and supports her, Cassis said.
Although a number of current and former lawmakers and former congressional candidates considered their own write-in campaigns, Cassis emerged as the consensus candidate.
"We showed we're ready to hit the ground running ... and the desire to give people in this district a choice over who will be their next congressperson," Cassis told The Associated Press. "The party had to come together and unify. I respect those people who also were running, and they've all gotten behind me."
Cassis said she also has the backing of party leaders ranging from Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson to state Sen. Mike Kowall of White Lake, who ran for the seat last year but dropped out, in part because McCotter abandoned a long-shot presidential bid and decided to run for re-election.
Milford teacher Kerry Bentivolio is on the 11th District GOP primary ballot, but party leaders feared the relatively unknown tea party supporter might lose in November to a Democrat, even though the 11th District is about 55 percent Republican.
Bentivolio's campaign manager Robert Dindoffer criticized GOP leaders' efforts to find a primary challenger.
"While we respect everyone's right to run, what we don't appreciate is a group of 15 to 25 career politicians and operatives going into a smoke-filled room and picking an anointed candidate to run against a good conservative," Dindoffer said.
McCotter out after signatures debacle
McCotter abandoned his own write-in campaign Saturday. He had been forced to run as a write-in candidate after failing to file enough signatures to get on the Aug. 7 GOP primary ballot. The state attorney general has opened a criminal investigation into possible wrongdoing over the petition signatures after only 244 of the 1,830 filed were found to be valid.
Cassis said earlier in the week she would be a good choice because she represented Oakland County in the Michigan Legislature and lived for a decade in the Wayne County community of Livonia, where she still attends services at St. Mary's Orthodox Church.
"I'm well-acquainted with the 11th District," said Cassis, a former teacher and head of the Senate Finance Committee who considers herself a conservative Republican. Before term limits ended her legislative career at the end of 2010, she served six years in the House and eight in the Senate.
Candidates running on the 11th District Democratic ballot include physician Taj Syed, a Wayne County Canton Township trustee, and William Roberts, a Lyndon LaRouche supporter who lives in Wayne County's Redford Township.