Griffie files challenge in bid to kick Hollier off Democratic U.S. House primary ballot

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Attorneys for Democrat Michael Griffie moved Friday to block the certification of state Sen. Adam Hollier of Detroit as a congressional candidate and keep him off the Aug. 2 Democratic primary ballot.

Both Griffie and Hollier are vying for the U.S. House in a crowded field of 11 Democrats seeking the open seat representing the new 13th District, which includes the bulk of Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and downriver communities. 

The letter alleges that Hollier — who is leading fundraising in the primary contest — filed a false affidavit of identity attesting that he had no outstanding campaign finance issues.

State Rep. Adam Hollier announces his run for Congress in the 13th District at Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit on Jan. 25, 2022.

The letter points to Hollier's state Senate campaign committee and argues that he had outstanding amendments to disclosure reports that were due but not filed as of the time he submitted his affidavit of identity earlier this month. 

The letter cites questions raised by state elections officials about gas and travel expenses listed in an October 2019 quarterly report, seeking the number of miles driven for each expenditure.

While Hollier's campaign this month filed a related travel log with the Michigan Bureau of Elections, it allegedly never amended the actual campaign statement to reflect this, the Griffie letter claims. 

"Because Senator Hollier’s committee failed to file this required amended report, Senator Hollier’s attestation that 'all statements, reports, late filing fees, and fines' due of him or his candidate committee were filed or paid as of the date of the Affidavit of Identity, was false," wrote Griffie attorney Chris Trebilcock. 

Griffie's campaign is asking Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett not to certify Hollier as a candidate for the August primary contest or the November general election because of his allegedly faulty affidavit and to keep him off the ballot.

"I think it’s important that the public have insight as to whether or not candidates seeking to hold federal office are complying with Michigan campaign finance law,” Griffie told The Detroit News. “Trust in our electoral process is one of the most sacred things we hold.”

Hollier's campaign did not immediately comment Friday on the allegations. 

The state law at issue says the affidavit of identity filed by candidates must include a “signed and notarized” statement that the candidate has complied with "all statements, reports, late filing fees and fines required of the candidate or any candidate committee organized to support the candidate’s election under the Michigan campaign finance act."

It's unclear under the law whether an omission or error would constitute an unfiled report.

On the affidavit, the relevant section includes an acknowledgement that making a false statement as part of the affidavit is considered perjury, which is a felony offense and could result in disqualification from the ballot. Hollier signed the document on April 15, according to a copy filed with the challenge. 

Michael Griffie

Next, Garrett will decide whether to certify Hollier as a candidate — a decision that either Hollier or Griffie could appeal to the Wayne County Circuit Court or to the office of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson if they are unhappy. 

Other candidates have been kicked off the ballot after similar challenges related to outstanding campaign finance issues, including former Pontiac Mayor Deirdre Waterman last year and, more recently, Michigan House candidate Mellissa Carone.

In the case of Carone, she signed her affidavit at a time when she had unpaid late filing fees of $50 and $75 and had been notified that her campaign had failed to file its end-of-year fundraising disclosure report. 

Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini said state law prevented him from certifying the name of a candidate to the board of election commissioners if the candidate "executes an affidavit of identity that contains a false statement."

Staff writer Craig Mauger contributed.