GOP attacks Bishop challenger’s voting status

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Republicans are trying to cast doubt on whether a Democratic challenger to GOP U.S. Rep. Mike Bishop is properly registered to vote Michigan, going so far as to file a complaint with the state.

But state law requires that, to register to vote, an individual must be a resident of Michigan, and Democrat Elissa Slotkin has lived in Holly Township in Oakland County since the spring of 2017, according to her campaign.

A complaint filed last week with Secretary of State Ruth Johnson by Ingham County GOP Chair Yavonne Whitbeck alleges that Slotkin last fall received a homestead deduction on property taxes in the city of Washington, D.C., after registering to vote in Michigan in May.

A taxpayer may claim the homestead deduction in the District of Columbia only if it is their principal residence, so Whitbeck suggests Slotkin’s voter registration in Michigan is fraudulent.

But Slotkin is not receiving the homestead deduction in the District of Columbia, according to the DC Office of Tax and Revenue.

“This complaint is verifiably false. The complaint letter is a political stunt, drafted by Rep. Mike Bishop’s Washington law firm. Folks here are tired of these political games,” Mela Louise Norman, campaign manager for Slotkin, said.

“Elissa Slotkin, who has devoted her career to protecting the United States, is running for Congress to bring new leadership to this district – and a new level of civility to the office.”

The Detroit News obtained a copy of a letter that Slotkin wrote to the city in October 2017 canceling the homestead deduction for her row home and a payment of $615.12 to cover the deduction she received for the period of April 1 through Sept. 30.

The DC Office of Tax and Revenue confirmed that Slotkin’s homestead cancellation form was received, and the deduction canceled as of April 1, 2017.

The payment of $615.82 was credited to the property’s account and covered more than what was owed, so a partial credit will be applied to the tax liability for 2018, said David Umansky, spokesman for the DC Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

“No penalty was assessed on the late payment, presumably because of voluntary cancellation,” Umansky said by email.

The District of Columbia requires taxpayers to notify the city in writing within 30 days of a change in eligibility for the homestead benefit. Slotkin’s letter says it was an oversight.

“They have no leg to stand on whatsoever,” said Mark Brewer, an election attorney and former Michigan Democratic Party chairman, about the GOP complaint.

“The fact that at some point she might have taken the homestead deduction in D.C. doesn’t affect her eligibility to register to vote in Michigan.”

Slotkin, 41, grew up in Michigan and went into national service, spending roughly 15 years in various posts in the U.S. intelligence and defense communities in Washington and abroad during the administrations of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

The former Central Intelligence Agency analyst registered to vote in Michigan in May 2017 after moving back to her family’s farm in Holly in the 8th Congressional District. She had spent the previous five years working at the Pentagon, where her last post was acting assistant secretary of defense.

Her husband, Dave Moore, a former Apache pilot who retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army, occupies the property in Washington, D.C., part time, because he works at the Pentagon a few days a week.

Slotkin launched her campaign for Congress in July. Another candidate is also seeking the Democratic nomination in the 8th District – Chris Smith of East Lansing.

The Secretary of State’s Office said it has not received a copy of Whitbeck’s complaint, which was provided to The Detroit News by the Michigan Republican Party.

The Microsoft Word document containing the complaint says its author was Sloane M. Skinner, who is an associate in the Government & Public Affairs Practice Group of the Washington office of the law firm Clark Hill.

Bishop, the Rochester Republican and former majority leader of the Michigan Senate, worked for the Clark Hill firm in Michigan after his service in the state Legislature ended in 2010.

Reached Friday at her Washington office, Skinner acknowledged the letter but would not answer questions about it. Whitbeck could not be reached for comment.