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Judge rules Incumbent Pontiac mayor will stay off August ballot

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — An Oakland Circuit judge has ruled Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman’s name cannot appear on the August primary ballot and ordered the city’s Election Commission to remove it.

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Yasmine Poles made the ruling during a virtual hearing Wednesday in a court action against the city's election commission filed by activist and former Oakland County Commissioner Mattie McKinney Hatchett. 

Hatchett had filed for a temporary restraining order against Pontiac's election commission following suggestions by some of its members and efforts by Waterman, a second-term mayor, to have Waterman's name restored for the Aug. 3 ballot. 

Pontiac Mayor Dierdre Waterman addresses the media and others during a press conference, Friday, April 2, 2021.

Waterman was rendered ineligible for the ballot last month for failing to submit campaign finance reports on time. On April 13, Waterman signed an affidavit for her reelection bid asserting all fees and reports had been filed. But her eligibility was contested after it was discovered some reports were outstanding when she'd signed. 

Under Michigan law, anyone filing to run for office must submit an affidavit of identity, including "a statement that as of the date of the affidavit, all statements, reports, late filing fees and fines required of the candidate or any candidate committee" have been filed or paid. 

“She’s off the ballot,” said attorney Mark Brewer, who represents Pontiac City Clerk Garland Doyle who is also on the city election commission. “She has the option to run as a write-in candidate but her name cannot appear on the ballot.”

Pontiac voters will find names of four candidates on their ballot. They include: former State Rep. Tim Greimel, Jeremy Bowie, Wanda Denise Coates, and Alexandra Riley.

A fifth candidate, former city councilman Mark Holland, was taken off the ballot because of a filing omission on his affidavit. It's not known if he will pursue the office as a write-in.

Waterman can advance to the fall election if she finishes first or second in the primary as a write-in candidate. 

Waterman, the city’s first female mayor, had filed her own lawsuit in the matter but subsequently dropped it. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Two of the three members of the city election commission appointed by Waterman — city attorney Anthony Chubb and city treasurer Sekar Bawa — previously indicated they planned to restore Waterman on the ballot. In the virtual meeting Wednesday before Poles, both city officials said they would comply with the judge’s order.

Attorney Trachelle Young, who had filed a lawsuit on Waterman’s behalf against city and county election officials, said neither she nor Waterman were part of this week’s hearing before Poles.

“We dismissed our previous complaint because of a change in the law that affected our legal challenge and we are monitoring the situation to see how courts respond and may refile,” Young told The News on Thursday.

Young said Waterman has always considered running as a write-in candidate in the event she is left off the ballot.

Waterman is among several Metro Detroit incumbents to face eligibility challenges in recent weeks over campaign finance concerns. 

Wayne County's chief circuit judge rules earlier this month that Taylor Mayor Rick Sollars isn't eligible for the August ballot either due to his failure to file several campaign finance reports and pay fines prior to filing for reelection.

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