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State lawmaker’s death prompts scramble to fill vacancy

Chad Livengood
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Municipal elections clerks and Democratic Party leaders are scrambling to fill a vacancy on the Aug. 2 ballot in the 11th House District following the weekend death of state Rep. Julie Plawecki.

Plawecki, D-Dearborn Heights, died Saturday from an apparent heart attack and was the only Democrat on the ballot in a district that encompasses Dearborn Heights, Inkster, Garden City and parts of Westland and Livonia.

Ballots for the primary were distributed to municipalities on June 18 and those ballots for precincts in the 11th District will have to be recalled and reprinted, said Jina Sawani, spokeswoman for Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett.

Garden City issued a public notice to residents Monday saying absentee ballots mailed to voters on Friday “are invalid” because of Plawecki’s death and that “new ballots will be mailed out.”

Under state law, filling the vacancy on the primary ballot after a candidate dies requires a meeting of Democratic precinct delegates in the House district who will elect three delegates to select a new nominee.

“This is one of those archaic laws that nobody expected to ever use,” said Jonathan Kinloch, chairman of the 13th Congressional District Democratic Party Organization. “It still seems unreal.”

Democrats in the 13th Congressional District, which encompasses all but the Livonia portion of Plawecki's state House district, have scheduled a meeting of precinct delegates for 6 p.m. on July 7 at the Westland City Hall, 36300 Warren Road.

Once the three selection delegates are elected, the panel will choose a new candidate that night, Kinloch said.

Registered voters who reside in the 11th House District who are interested in running for the seat submit a letter of interest and resume to Kinloch by 5 p.m. July 5 either by hand delivering a letter to 600 W. Lafayette Blvd. in Detroit or emailing Kinloch at

Plawecki died while hiking with a daughter in Oregon, and her body has to be transported back to Michigan. 

Visitation is set for Thursday and Friday at the John N. Santeiu & Son Funeral Home, 1139 N. Inkster Road in Garden City. A memorial service is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday at Church of the Divine Child, 1055 N. Silvery Lane in Dearborn.

Brandon Dillon, chairman of the Michigan Democratic Party, is urging Wayne County Democrats to give the Plawecki family time to grieve before naming a successor candidate.

“I don’t think it should happen until after Julie’s funeral,” Dillon said Monday.

Robert Pope and Dale Prosser, both of Garden City, are seeking the Republican nomination in the Aug. 2 primary.

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Twitter: @ChadLivengood