LANSING, Mich. — Republican House Speaker Tom Leonard announced his candidacy for Michigan attorney general Thursday, saying he wants to target elder abuse, the opioid epidemic and mental illness, and that he is uniquely positioned for the job because of his work as a prosecutor, state lawyer and legislator.
Leonard will battle state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker for the GOP nomination to succeed term-limited Republican Bill Schuette, who is running for governor. Republicans and Democrats will choose their attorney general candidates at conventions next summer and voters will elect a winner in November 2018.
Leonard, of DeWitt Township near Lansing, said conservative party activists who will be vital in the convention nominating contest support his work as speaker.
“I’ve been a fighter this term,” he told The Associated Press. “I fought to reduce their income taxes. I fought to address and fix a broken teacher retirement system. I fought to uphold and protect their Second Amendment rights to keep and bear arms. And I have fought to reduce and lower their insurance rates.”
Of those four initiatives, one — prodding more school employees into a 401(k)-only retirement benefit — has become law. The House fell short when trying to reduce the state income tax. Legislation to cut auto insurance premiums by letting drivers forego unlimited medical benefits was introduced just recently. House-approved bills to make it voluntary to get a concealed pistol license are pending in the GOP-led Senate.
Leonard, 36, began leading the House in January and is in his third and final House due to term limits. He previously worked as an assistant prosecutor in Genesee County for three years and as an assistant state attorney general for two years defending the Corrections Department in lawsuits.
“Certainly I believe I am uniquely qualified to run for attorney general,” said Leonard, who has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a law degree from Michigan State University.
His time as a prosecutor, he said, was “the most incredible experience and best job that I’ve ever had in my life.” He said if he is elected, he would collaborate with county prosecutors to assign some state attorneys to help in special drug treatment courts.
He also said he would have a “compassionate heart” toward the addicted but “come down very harshly on those that actually feed those habits and prey on those with addictions.”
In response to Leonard’s announcement, Schuitmaker again touted herself as a conservative who has won in counties twice carried by Barack Obama.
Two Democrats are running for the office that has been in GOP hands since 2003: Pat Miles, a former U.S. attorney for western Michigan and lawyer Dana Nessel, who helped win a legal fight to strike down Michigan’s gay marriage ban.