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Judge dismisses House candidate’s complaint against foe

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Lansing — The Michigan Court of Claims dismissed a legal complaint that a Democratic state House candidate running in one of the most competitive Michigan districts this year hadn’t lived in his Macomb County district long enough before filing for office.

Republican Diana Farrington from Utica filed an “emergency complaint” with the Court of Claims last Wednesday, according to a court document. In it, Farrington, the wife of GOP Rep. Jeff Farrington, argued that her Democratic opponent Michael Notte had not lived in his new Macomb County residence for the required 30-day minimum.

Judge Cynthia Stephens, whom former Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed in 2008, dismissed the complaint on Tuesday. Stephens said in an opinion that Farrington waited too long to file the emergency order and did not provide any supporting evidence to prove that Notte hadn’t lived in the 30th district long enough.

“In other words, she is raising an allegation about a representation that was made several months ago, on the eve of when the ballots will be printed, and after a primary election has already occurred,” Stephens wrote in her opinion. “Waiting until now to raise this challenge clearly prejudices the electorate.”

Stephens wrote that Farrington based her allegation about Notte’s residency “upon information and belief,” which Stephens said is disputable.

“Plaintiff’s bare allegations do not warrant the type of relief sought in this case,” Stephens wrote.

Farrington said Tuesday that her attorneys are refiling the complaint in Macomb County. Her attorneys say Notte moved into the district on March 23 and was required to be a registered candidate by the April 19 filing deadline.

“It seems like it was thrown out just by a technicality,” Farrington said. “I believe that the legal team has provided evidence. We have proof that he has not lived in the district for the required timetable.”

If an injunction had been granted against Notte, Farrington might have been the 30th district’s sole candidate in the general election. But Farrington would not say whether it would have meant an automatic win for her.

“I don’t have a crystal ball, to be honest with you,” Farrington said. “I just want to represent our community and have been working very hard in the past six months, have been meeting thousands of residents. And our community deserves … a legitimate candidate.”

Her legal team is planning to refile its complaint in a Macomb County court. She said the judge only dismissed the challenge on a “technicality” because they had mistakenly filed it in Ingham County.

Michael Notte said he was pleased with the court’s decision to dismiss the compaint and said he’s trying to focus on issues important to his constituents and knock on doors in his district to hear residents’ concerns.

“My opponent’s shenanigans show how desperate they are,” Notte said. “I think the judge was pretty clear in what she stated. The court pointed out this was a baseless claim.”

“If that’s how they want to win, on a technicality, shame on them,” he continued.

The 30th district is extremely competitive, said Josh Pugh, with Lansing-based political consulting firm Grassroots Midwest.

Pugh said the district is crucial for Democrats this year.

Democrats are vying for more seats so they can be on solid footing to win back the state House before it’s time to redraw political districts. Democrats have been complaining for years about Republican gerrymandering.

Twitter: @MikeGerstein

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