The Republican primary in the state Senate district that includes Kalamazoo County this August is suddenly a lot smaller. Former state representative and Kalamazoo County commissioner Lorence Wenke says he's dropping his primary bid. But he's not out of the race. The Gongwer News Service reported late Friday that Wenke plans to run as the Libertarian Party's candidate instead.
Gonger says Wenke issued a statement saying that the main reason he's leaving the GOP is the party's stand on gay rights. In 2004 Wenke was one of only two Republicans who voted against a proposed "Marriage Protection Amendment". Two years later Michigan voters approved a similar amendment to Michigan's constitution that banned gay marriage. A federal judge ruled earlier this year that the law is unconstitutional. But the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put that ruling on hold until it can hear the case this summer. That decision followed an appeal by Republican State Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Wenke's decision to exit the GOP primary apparently gives State Representative Margaret O'Brien (R-Portage) a near clear shot at the nomination. In August she faces Ron Zuiderveen, Jr., a Kalamazoo resident who Gongwer says plans to run his primary campaign on $1,000 or less. The winner of the Republican contest in the 20th Senate District will face State Representative Sean McCann (D-Kalamazoo) in November.