Advance Notice: Briefs

Former Michigan House speaker wants rematch against AG Nessel in ‘22

By: - September 26, 2021 8:31 am

House Speaker Tom Leonard gives his farewell address on the House floor, Dec. 20, 2018 | Michael Gerstein

Former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard (R-DeWitt) announced at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference that he will again run against Democratic now-Attorney General Dana Nessel in 2022 after a failed attempt in 2018. 

Leonard joined the Republican candidate field of Trump-backed Kalamazoo attorney Matthew DePerno, who has worked on pro-Trump attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and state Rep. Ryan Berman (R-Commerce Twp.). The party nomination will be decided by GOP delegates at an April 2022 convention — not in a primary open to all voters. 

In a news release on Friday, Leonard credited his time serving “alongside law enforcement” for knowing “what it takes to get the job done and keep people safe”.

“When I am Michigan’s next attorney general, we are going to put a stop to the political games and finally use that office as a force for good,” Leonard said. 

In the 2018 election for an open seat, Leonard lost to Nessel by 115,000 votes or about 3% of the vote. Prior to his 2018 bid, Leonard served three terms in the state House and was an assistant prosecutor in Genesee County.

Rick Snyder and Brian Calley at their year-end press conference, Dec. 11, 2018 | Ken Coleman

Leonard has been endorsed by Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard and Tom McMillin, a GOP State Board of Education member and former state representative. 

Leonard has other strong establishment ties, including to both former Gov. Rick Snyder and former Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, now president at the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM). Leonard’s spouse, Jenell Leonard, owns the GOP consulting firm MRG in Lansing.

However, Leonard is seen by many analysts as having to make up ground with GOP activists, as DePerno was endorsed by former President Donald Trump this month. Trump called DePerno a “Super Lawyer,” praising DePerno in a statement saying “he  relentlessly fights to reveal the truth about the Nov. 3rd Presidential Election Scam.” 

DePerno has received national attention for perpetuating election fraud conspiracies in Michigan and Arizona. DePerno filed a lawsuit in Antrim County, claiming the county’s Dominion Voting Systems equipment was programmed to produce vote totals favoring Democratic candidates, even after a brief error was quickly corrected and Trump was certified as the winner of the county. DePerno got his request for “forensic imaging” of the voting equipment approved by Judge Kevin Elsenheimer, a GOP former lawmaker, but he eventually dismissed the case. 

Leonard did have Trump’s support back in 2019, when the then-president nominated Leonard to serve as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan in 2019. But he was never confirmed. Both of Michigan’s U.S. senators, Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing) and Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.), blocked his nomination by refusing to meet with him. Both senators cited their “strong concerns” regarding his record and qualifications. 

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Julia Forrest
Julia Forrest

Julia Forrest is a contributor to the Michigan Advance. She has been covering Michigan and national politics for two years at the Michigan Daily and OpenSecrets. She studies public policy at the University of Michigan.