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Former GOP House Speaker Tom Leonard to make second bid for state attorney general

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 9/24/2021 Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press
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Former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard announced Friday he will make a second bid to become state attorney general.

Leonard, a Republican from DeWitt, launched his bid at the start of the three-day Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, despite the fact former President Donald Trump, who retains strong influence in the party, has endorsed another candidate, Kalamazoo attorney Matthew DePerno.

Leonard, who was an assistant prosecutor in Genesee County before his election to the state House, was nominated at a state party convention as the Republican nominee for attorney general in 2018. He lost in the general election to Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel by 115,000 votes, which was slightly less than 3 percentage points.

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“I’ve served alongside law enforcement. I’ve worked with crime victims and their families. I know what it takes to get the job done and keep people safe," Leonard said in a news release.

"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.”

Also seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general is state Rep. Ryan Berman, R-Commerce Township, who is in his second term in the state House.

Kimberly Bush, a spokeswoman for the Nessel campaign, said Nessel "has positively impacted Michiganders in every part of this state," and is "just getting started."

The Michigan GOP is to nominate its candidates for attorney general, secretary of state, and the Supreme Court at an April 23 convention.

More: Lawyer who pushed Antrim County election fraud claims running for attorney general

More: Michigan GOP to tackle 'election integrity,' critical race theory at Mackinac conference

DePerno filed a lawsuit in Antrim County following the 2020 presidential election, alleging the county's Dominion Voting Systems equipment — also used in many other Michigan counties — was programmed to improperly shift voting totals in favor of Democratic candidates, over Republican ones. The suit was dismissed by a county judge, but not before DePerno got approval for "forensic imaging" of the voting equipment in a case that drew interest from Trump and his allies. Trump endorsed DePerno Sept. 15.

Former House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt © Junfu Han, Detroit Free Press Former House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt

Antrim is a solidly Republican county, but its unofficial results on election night showed Democrat Joe Biden with more votes than Trump. The official count approved by the county board of canvassers, confirmed by a hand recount  of the paper ballots, showed Trump won the county with 61% of the votes.

The county's Republican clerk, Cheryl Guy, admitted to causing the error in the unofficial results. Guy said that after learning some candidates in local races were omitted from the ballot, she needed to update the ballot information stored on media drives attached to the tabulating machines. But she mistakenly made the changes only in some precincts, instead of all of them, leading to mismatched data when the unofficial countywide tallies were compiled. The tabulators accurately read voters' ballots, they said. 

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or pegan@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4Read more on Michigan politics and sign up for our elections newsletter

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Former GOP House Speaker Tom Leonard to make second bid for state attorney general

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