Jackie Headapohl Managing Editor
Candidate says her fundraiser was nixed because of her political views.
Lena Epstein, a Republican candidate for Michigan’s open seat in the 11th District and co-chair of Trump’s Michigan campaign in 2016, said a June 27 fundraiser for her campaign at Franklin Hills Country Club was canceled by the board of directors due to her political views. The event had been scheduled and confirmed for more than a month and was fully compliant with Franklin Hills rules, according to Epstein. A fundraiser for Suneel Gupta, a Democrat vying for the same seat, was held in May at the country club.
According to media reports, a week earlier, former club member Michael Simon posted his concerns on Facebook about Epstein’s support of President Donald Trump’s policy of separating migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, calling her a “neo-fascist.”
In that post, he called on club members to disassociate themselves from her campaign. The Facebook post has since been deleted. Simon told the Detroit Free Press that Franklin Hills canceled the event and instituted a new policy of not hosting political fundraisers of any kind.
The Franklin Hills Country Club has deep roots with the local Jewish community.
In the 1920s, a group of Detroit Jewish leaders formed the club when they were banned from Detroit’s other clubs because of their religion. Both Simon and Epstein are Jewish. The JN’s calls for comment to the club’s manager Scott Cummings and board president Charlie Rothstein were not returned.
Epstein is a fourth-generation member of Franklin Hills.
“I grew up at the club, my daughter swims in the pool, my husband and I golf there. It’s where we have our Sunday night dinners,” she said in a statement. “It’s a huge part of who I am. So, this situation was very painful.”
In a press release, Epstein compared her treatment to that of Trump’s press secretary Sarah Sanders, who was asked to leave a Virginia restaurant in June by owners who disagreed with Trump’s policies.
“We need to learn how to have civil discussions and be cordial with those we don’t always agree with. On the campaign trail, I don’t always see eye to eye with everyone I meet. But at the end of the day, we can still be kind to one another,” Epstein wrote.
Epstein told the press she would continue going to the Franklin Hills Country Club with her family.
Epstein, who is a co-owner of Southfield-based Vesco Oil, said in the release that she “still adamantly supports Trump” and “couldn’t be more proud that he is keeping his campaign promises.”
Her supporters came to her defense on social media, calling for Trump supporters to cancel their memberships at Franklin Hills. Those opposed to her candidacy left a plethora of negative comments on her “Lena for Congress” Facebook page.
Epstein’s campaign was able to move the fundraiser planned for the Franklin Hills Country Club to Andiamo in Bloomfield Hills.