GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - Hours after a scathing report from the Kent County prosecutor, Roy Schmidt said he should remain in the state House of Representatives even though he tried to "perpetrate a 'fraud' on the electorate."
Schmidt switched his party affiliation to Republican at the filing deadline in May and recruited a friend of his nephew to file as a Democrat in the 76th District at the last moment. Prosecutor William Forsyth said Schmidt's "ill-conceived and poorly-executed plan" was "designed to undermine the election."
Still, when asked by 24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin whether he should remain in the House, Schmidt said yes.
"I think I made a poor political decision, Rick. That might've been different if the results were different today. But I made a poor political decision," he said at a law office in downtown Grand Rapids. "I'm serving my constituents, and I'm going to work my butt off to make it up to them, to go door-to-door, to explain to them. And, you know, I really have had, I believe, a good record of serving people in Grand Rapids and I hope they can understand I made a poor political decision. I'm more than willing to admit it. I couldn't wait to admit it. And I want to move on."
Schmidt seemed contrite when he spoke with 24 Hour News 8.
"I got in something that was over my head and reacted wrongly," said Schmidt. "I sincerely want to apologize to the people of Grand Rapids. I'm going to work my butt off to make amends for it."
He said he has been thinking about the situation since it happened.
"I thought for two months, being somewhat of a hermit, thinking and second-guessing myself," he said. "What the heck did I do?"
"Every single day I've been second-guessing myself," he added. "It was just something that I've never done. I didn't realize all the ramifications. I handled it very, very poorly and made a poor political decision."
Schmidt said he appreciates what Forsyth concluded in his report and said elected officials should be held to a higher standard.
"I'm taking full responsibility for this," he said.
In his report, Prosecutor William Forsyth said the legislature should take action.
"I think the election process is pretty fundamental in this country," Forsyth told 24 Hour News 8. "It is our backbone. What they did here undermined that in every sense. I know Rep. Schmidt went on TV and denied he knew Mojzak, and that's simply wasn't true. So I'm offended by what they did, and as an elected official I'm embarrassed by what they did."
Schmidt said he didn't know how much support he will get from the Republican party
"I believe I'll have to go make my case and I hope they'll support me," he said.
When asked if he was worried about winning the district when he made the decision to switch parties and get someone to run against him as a Democrat, Schmidt replied, "Yes."
When asked if he was worried now about the election, he again replied, "Yes."
Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), who was complicit in the effort to recruit a challenger, said in a statement, "I've said all along that all laws should be followed. As the Kent County Prosecutor determined, nothing illegal took place. Political fights can be ugly but we should all seek to focus on people, not politics. Nothing about Roy Schmidt switching parties was illegal..."
But Bolger told 24 Hour News 8 political reporter Rick Albin on Tuesday everyone involved needs to accept responsibility, and said that he certainly did.
"I accept responsibility for working with Roy and becoming distracted by the politics, instead of remaining focused on what the overwhelming majority of our conversations were, and that was why he was frustrated, why he was interested in leaving [the Democratic party], and what he wanted to focus on," he said.
But Democratic Party chairman Mark Brewer wants Bolger to step down. In his statement, Brewer said:
"It's clear from today's report by Prosecuting Attorney Forsyth that Speaker Bolger has been lying to the public and to the press since this scandal began. Based on the text messages and phone calls that Forsyth uncovered, Bolger and his top staff, including Chief of Staff Suzanne Miller Allen, Deputy Chief of Staff Phil Browne, spokesperson Ari Adler and their legal counsel were all involved in this scheme right from the beginning, despite their contemptuous protests to the contrary. Forsyth's condemnation of Bolger and Schmidt -- saying he was 'embarrassed and offended' as a fellow Republican -- shows just how despicable their actions were. Given the fact that the people of Michigan can no longer rely on anything that comes out of his mouth, Speaker Bolger should step down immediately from leadership in the House. "
But Bolger told 24 Hour News 8 that he will not step down.
"I don't take direction from any political boss, and certainly won't from that one," he said.
But political reporter Rick Albin said Bolger may face pressure from members of his own party as they are challenged on the issue by Democratic
opponents within their districts.
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