The Gongwer Blog

Lightner: Hall Offered Her Job To Cede Seat To Him; Not So, He Says

By Zachary Gorchow
Executive Editor and Publisher
Posted: February 14, 2022 7:37 AM

Rep. Sarah Lightner says Rep. Matt Hall offered her a job on the House Republican Caucus staff if she agreed not to run for reelection to the 45th House District in which they both live.

She also claims he offered to move into a new district, avoiding a primary fight between the two of them, should she publicly back him for House Republican leader in the upcoming term.

Mr. Hall (R-Marshall), responding to the allegation, said he "did not offer her a job with the caucus, and I'm going to keep a private conversation private. She's completely mischaracterized the conversation."

Ms. Lightner (R-Springport) was incredulous that Mr. Hall would deny the conversation.

Tensions have been building in the House Republican Caucus over the potential Hall-Lightner primary as a result of redistricting. Not only does it pit two major players in the caucus against one another (Ms. Lightner is co-chair of the House Republican Campaign Committee and Mr. Hall is on the fundraising team for the HRCC) and both are running for House Republican leader for the 2023-24 term – speaker if the GOP keeps majority. Also running to lead the caucus are Rep. Andrew Fink (R-Hillsdale) and Rep. Matt Maddock (R-Milford).

The new 45th keeps what Mr. Hall now represents in Calhoun County and some of what he represents in Kalamazoo County. It adds some of the portion of Jackson County Ms. Lightner now represents. Ms. Lightner's current district got carved up between six different districts.

Ms. Lightner said she and Mr. Hall have had lots of conversations about the situation.

"Rep. Hall asked me to sit out for two years and he would give me a job. That to me was a little offensive," she said. "I'm not willing to barter or negotiate me running for the 45th. … I just really feel like I have a better connection with people in general when it comes to face to face and one on one talking to them."

Ms. Lightner said that conversation happened on a Friday. She then filed to run for reelection out of the new 45th District on a Monday.

"That kind of put me over the tipping edge," she said.

Mr. Hall should be the one to move, Ms. Lightner said. Her children attend the Springport schools. Her husband is an elected member of the local school board. The family owns a farm that has long been in her husband's family. Mr. Hall is single, has no children and does not have long-term roots in the area, she said.

For Ms. Lightner to change districts, the only real option being the 46th, her children would have to change school districts and her husband resign from the school board. This would also put her into a swing district Democrats are expected to heavily contest.

Mr. Hall doesn't have a great option either, but it would present less personal upheaval. He could move into the new 42nd District, a likely Republican district with no current incumbent that has five townships that overlap with his current 63rd District.

"I just felt like he would probably do the right thing and phase into his Kalamazoo community instead of the Calhoun community. He has in my eyes more flexibility," Ms. Lightner said. "Why not take the higher road and move over to another community that he already represents, and we have two good caucus members coming back instead of possibly just one. To me that's him just looking out for himself and not the greater good of the caucus."

Ms. Lightner said Mr. Hall told her he did not want to move but would do so if she would publicly support him for speaker. She declined.

"I'm not going to be strongarmed into supporting someone or something just to save from a primary," she said. "I believe I'm doing the right thing. I believe in continuing to represent my communities."

Ms. Lightner noted that she has filed for the 45th District, and Mr. Hall has not, leaving it to him to decide whether they face off in a primary.

"His words were he didn't want to have a bloodbath," she said. "Well, at this point, it's up to him on whether or not we have one."

Another point of contention in the past week is Mr. Hall's fundraising. He led the field among potential leader candidates with $102,201 in fundraising for his PAC during the most recent reporting period and has $242,949 cash on hand. None of the other potential leader candidates were close. Ms. Lightner raised $5,850 for her PAC and had $22,132 cash on hand.

What some disliked were two contributions he received late in the reporting period to his candidate committee from PACs controlled by other House members. Rep. Andrew Beeler (R-Fort Gratiot) and Rep. Graham Filler (R-DeWitt) had their PACs each contribute $10,000 to Mr. Hall's reelection Committee on December 27 and December 15, respectively. That brought Mr. Hall's candidate committee to $30,000 raised for the period and $109,249 cash on hand.

On December 8, Mr. Hall's PAC gave Mr. Filler's PAC $12,500, and it gave $12,500 to Mr. Beeler's PAC on December 15.

That, to some caucus members, looked like Mr. Hall using his PAC, which in general members use to help their caucus win majority, to help himself. It resulted in his candidate committee raising more money for the period than Ms. Lightner, who raised $13,953, and having more cash on hand (she had $22,914).

"It goes to show you that it's more about Matt Hall than it is his constituents or the people of Michigan," Ms. Lightner said of the fundraising activity.

Mr. Hall's PAC did, however, max out to the House Republican Campaign Committee for 2021.

Mr. Hall waved off any criticism.

"I think my fundraising numbers speak for themselves. We've raised at least 10 times the money that she has, and I'll leave it at that," he said.

To Mr. Hall's claims he did not offer her a job, Ms. Lightner stood by what she said.

"His statement suggesting I sit out for two years, and he'll give me a job is hard to mischaracterize or misread," she said. "I know what he said."

Ms. Lightner said her priority is to represent the communities with which she feels a bond. Yes, they were private conversations between her and Mr. Hall, Ms. Lightner said, but she said she would not be strongarmed.

"He's trying to put me in a box, and I'm not going to close the lid on that box," she said.

Staff Writer Jordyn Hermani contributed to this report.

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