By Todd Spangler and Dawson Bell, Detroit Free Press –
DETROIT — U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter abruptly resigned his office Friday afternoon, ending a decade of service in Congress after what the Michigan Republican called a “nightmarish month and a half” that has taken a toll on him and his family.
His sudden departure throws a huge complication into the election season just four months before McCotter — already set to leave office in January after a strange scandal involving petition signatures left his name off the ballot — was set to be replaced in the November general election.
“It’s the ultimate disaster. The guy has just made one terrible blunder after another,” said Bill Ballenger, publisher of Lansing-based Inside Michigan Politics. “In my view, this is the supreme self-centered act. He’s just caused more problems for everybody. At least the guy could have quietly kept his mouth shut and tried to pull everything together and serve out the rest of his term.”
What happens next isn’t clear.
Under Michigan law, a special election would normally be required to replace a congressman. But with the primary only a month away and the general election four months away, Gov. Rick Snyder might need to call for an entire other election — in that same timeframe — to put someone in office to fill out the remaining weeks or months of McCotter’s expiring term.
Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said a decision on the procedure for replacing McCotter would not be made right away.
Wurfel said Snyder received McCotter’s resignation letter Friday afternoon and won’t have a definitive answer on the next steps until his office has the opportunity to more closely review Michigan’s election law and consult with the state’s election experts.
“The governor thanks the congressman for his years of service to our state and country,” she said.
As is often the case with the dour, cerebral McCotter, his decision ran against convention and defied explanation.
Last summer, the five-term congressman and former state senator launched a hard-to-explain, short-lived bid for the Republican nomination for president.
Just this week, the Detroit News reported that, in the weeks after the failed presidential run, McCotter began writing a TV comedy he intended as a cathartic exercise, with him as the host of “a crude variety show cast with characters bearing the nicknames of his congressional staffers, his brother and a drunk, perverted ‘Black Santa.’”
But the biggest blow came several weeks ago, when it was revealed that McCotter had submitted to the Michigan secretary of state more than 1,000 fraudulent, duplicated or otherwise invalid petition signatures in support of his re-election campaign. At a loss to explain it, McCotter asked to be removed from the Aug. 7 Republican primary ballot.
Shortly thereafter, he abandoned what would have been a difficult write-in campaign as GOP officials fumed over a mistake that congressional historians were unable to find a precedent for in a race involving an incumbent.
The state attorney general’s office is investigating the case, as McCotter requested.
In a statement late Friday announcing his resignation, McCotter cited the recent events.
“This past nightmarish month and a half have, for the first time, severed the necessary harmony between the needs of my constituency and of my family,” he said. “As this harmony is required to serve, its absence requires I leave.”
“The recent event’s totality of calumnies, indignities and deceits have weighed most heavily upon my family,” he added. “Acutely aware one cannot rebuild their hearth of home amongst the ruins of their U.S. House office, for the sake of my loved ones I must ‘strike another match, go start anew’ by embracing the promotion back from public servant to sovereign citizen.”
He did not explain what happened since early last month, when he dropped his write-in campaign — effectively announcing the end of his congressional career at the end of his term — that caused the sudden decision to resign. His spokesman, Randall Thompson, said there would be no interviews or further comments.
The statement said McCotter’s offices in Michigan and Washington, D.C., would remain open under the auspices of the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. McCotter sent letters to House Speaker John Boehner, the clerk and Snyder informing them of his decision.
“I think it throws a monkey wrench into everything and is possibly harmful to the party,” said political consultant John Truscott in Lansing. “I am surprised. I understand where he’s coming from — this whole thing has been very unusual.”