Wayne County clerk clears Hollier for primary ballot; Griffie to appeal

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett has cleared Democratic state Sen. Adam Hollier of Detroit to appear on the Aug. 2 primary ballot, rejecting a challenge from an opponent in the race for U.S. House in Michigan's new 13th District. 

Garrett issued a determination letter dated Tuesday, saying Hollier had not violated state election law and, therefore, was eligible to appear on the ballot.

The campaign for Michael Griffie, who had filed the challenge against Hollier, said Wednesday it intends to appeal Garrett's decision. 

Hollier

Both Griffie and Hollier are competing in a field of 11 Democrats seeking the open seat representing the new 13th District, which covers the bulk of Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and downriver communities. 

Attorneys for Griffie last month had asked Garrett not to certify Hollier as a candidate for the August primary contest or the November general election, alleging he had submitted a faulty affidavit of identity attesting that he had no outstanding campaign finance issues. 

Griffie argued that Hollier had outstanding amendments to disclosure reports that were due but not filed as of the time he submitted his affidavit of identity in April. 

Griffie's attorneys cited questions raised by state elections officials about gas and travel expenses listed in an October 2019 quarterly report by Hollier's state Senate campaign, seeking the number of miles driven for each expenditure.

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

Garrett said in her letter that she consulted with Michigan Director of Elections Jonathan Brater about whether Hollier had any outstanding finance issues as of April 15 and that Brater confirmed that Hollier had submitted all required statements, reports, fees and fines. 

While Hollier's campaign was issued notices of error/omission about past reports, Brater told Garrett that a review of election bureau records "indicates that the committee did provide information sufficient to satisfy any outstanding questions regarding those notices on April 12." 

Griffie, an attorney and educator, said Wednesday he would appeal Garrett's determination to the Wayne County Circuit Court. 

“Political insiders and career politicians must play by the same rules as everyone else. This is why we plan to appeal the Clerk’s decision,” Griffie said in a statement.

“We need a new generation of leaders who play by the rules and are committed to transparency and good governance.”

Hollier's attorneys in a legal response to Griffie's challenge argued that candidates for federal office are not required to attest that all campaign statements and reports have been filed at the time the affidavit of identity is submitted. They added that, even if he had submitted an incorrect attestation, that wouldn't be grounds to exclude him from the ballot.  

Clerk Garrett also rejected a voter's move to disqualify John Conyers III as a candidate for the 13th District that alleged that he failed to use his full legal name in the headings on his nominating petitions, using "John Conyers" instead of "John Conyers III." 

The challenge by Robert C. Perkins Sr. of Ecorse contended that Conyers not using his full name could "confuse and mislead" voters because his late father, the former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., was widely known as "John Conyers" and represented much of the same territory in Congress for decades. Rep. Conyers died in 2019.

But Garrett said there's no clear requirement in Michigan election law requiring a candidate to include their suffix in a petition heading. She also found that she couldn't reach a determination on the issue of voter confusion because there's no other John Conyers running for office and "only one John Conyers registered in Wayne County."

Conyers III ran for the 13th District seat in 2018, but he was disqualified over problems with the signatures on his nominating petitions, an action he tried to fight in court and lost. He has never held elected office.

Conyers, Hollier and Griffie are running in a Democratic primary contest that includes Detroit attorney Portia Roberson, state Rep. Shri Thanedar of Detroit, former Detroit Councilwoman Sharon McPhail, former state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo of Detroit, Adrian Tonon, activist Sam Riddle, Angela McIntosh and Lorrie Rutledge.

mburke@detroitnews.com