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THURSDAY, Aug. 1 — State House candidate Paul DeWeese said today he is “sickened and saddened” by antigay actions he took when he served in the Legislature nearly two decades ago.
DeWeese said he cannot recall that he voted to deny funds to colleges and universities if they promoted anything other than heterosexual monogamy.
Nor could he remember, he said that he signed a letter to the state school superintendent with other legislators seeking an investigation of the Grand Haven School District for allowing gay speakers at “Diversity Day.”
“It sickens and saddens me that I would have done that,” he said. “I would not do that now,” he said.
DeWeese did not deny either action. But he said, “Do people remember everything they did of a similar impact 18 years ago?”
State records show that DeWeese voted for an amendment in 2000 to deny the funding. It failed on a voice vote.
An editorial in the Lansing State Journal that was published in 2000 took DeWeese and other legislators to task for the letter.
DeWeese is running in the Democratic primary Tuesday to represent the 68th House District, which is a Lansing seat. He served in the House from 1999 to 2003 as a Republican from Williamston.
He is posing a challenge to the candidate widely endorsed by leading Democrats, Ingham County Commissioner Sarah Anthony. Anthony is favored, but with his name recognition and a large, mostly self-donated war chest, DeWeese is seen as a threat, particularly given the large field.
Eight candidates are actively seeking the two-year term that begins Jan. 1. Six are running as well to complete Andy Schor’s term, which ends Dec. 31. Schor quit the House after being elected mayor of Lansing.
Leading the charge against him is state Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr., D-East Lansing. He provided copies of the editorial and information that led to verifying DeWeese’s vote.
Hertel called DeWeese “opportunistic.” He said his flip flops were part of a pattern.
For example, he said DeWeese goes back and forth between being a Republican and a Democrat depending on opportunity, and even what kind he is: liberal, moderate, conservative.
He said DeWeese, a former physician, was a “conservative, pro-life doctor” when he was a Republican representative. But he ran for the state Senate in 2003 as a moderate, Hertel said.
Then, Hertel asserted, in 2004 he moved to the right again when he sought the Republican nomination for Congress in the 7th District, part of which is in Delta Township and Eaton County and more conservative points west.
As evidence, Hertel produced a 2004 article from the Battle Creek Inquirer that said DeWeese backed amending the U.S. Constitution to ban same-sex marriage.
In 2008, he said DeWeese was a Democrat. In 2014, he was a Republican, Hertel asserted. And now he is a Democrat again, he added.
“This is not a one-time thing,” Hertel said. “This is a career of being a chameleon.”
(Hertel and DeWeese have agreed to be on City Pulse’s radio show on WDBM The Impact at 88.9 FM. It airs at 10:30 a.m. Saturdays. A podcast of it will be posted at www.lansingcitypulse.com Friday around 5 p.m.)
Regarding 2014, Hertel claimed that DeWeese told him in a telephone call that year that he was considering running against him for the Senate as a Republican and that the reason he’d be a Republican again was his opposition to Obamacare.
He also said that he knows that the Republican Caucus ran a poll on how DeWeese would fare if he were the GOP candidate against Hertel. He said he does not know who paid for the poll.
DeWeese denied he considered switching parties again to run against Hertel. He said he became a Democrat in 2006 and has been one ever since.
“I did consider running against Hertel as a Democrat in the primary,” DeWeese said. “Hertel continues to claim that I commissioned a poll and thought about running against him as a Republican. Both of these assertions are not true. A poll may have been conducted by another organization or person but not by me. I never saw the results of any poll.
“Hertel also states that I told him that one reason I wanted to run against him was that I was against Obamacare. This is false. I have always been a big supporter of what Mitt Romney did in Massachusetts as governor in regards to expanding health coverage and I have always strongly supported Obamacare.
“I do not know Hertel's motivation for making these assertions. I can only suppose that they play into his narrative that I have no core principles and that I am driven by political expediency.”
“Why would I make this up,” said Hertel, who confirmed that he has endorsed Anthony.
DeWeese acknowledged that he backed the ban on same-sex marriage in 2004. But he argued it should be viewed in the larger context of his support at the time for civil unions.
He added: “I grew into a different understanding which had me strongly embrace the notion that marriage was a right for all consenting adults.”