Griffie asks Wayne County judge to remove opponent Hollier from ballot

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Democrat Michael Griffie is asking a Wayne County judge to order the removal of his opponent, state Sen. Adam Hollier, from the ballot for U.S. House in the new 13th District. 

The Monday filing comes days after Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett had cleared Hollier, a Detroit Democrat, to appear on the Aug. 2 primary ballot, rejecting a challenge by Griffie alleging that Hollier violated state election law and, therefore, was ineligible.

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.

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

Hollier on Monday blasted Griffie's appeal as frivolous, following the determination from the Secretary of State that he had complied with the rules.

"The Secretary of State made it abundantly clear that I've always been in compliance with every statute — that all the things that they have asked me were turned in and correct when turned in. I have never owed a fee. I have never filed a late report, nor are any reports missing," Hollier said. 

"The idea that someone would appeal what has been plain doesn't make any sense," he said. "This continues to be Mike's opportunity to put his name in the headlines, and I don't see any legitimacy to these challenges. But it's the kind of thing that I think you expect from someone who's a lobbyist and corporate attorney."

Griffie said Monday that "political insiders and do-nothing career politicians must play by the same rules as everyone else. This is why we have appealed the clerk's decision." 

Griffie said his attorneys filed a complaint Monday afternoon in Wayne County Circuit Court, asking a judge to order Garrett to remove Hollier from the ballot and to order the county Election Commission not to prepare any ballots until the matter is resolved. 

Griffie also filed an emergency motion asking the court to issue a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction in relation to ballot printing, arguing that once the ballots are printed with Hollier's name, "the damage is done." 

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

Griffie's team has 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.

Garrett said in her determination letter last week that she had consulted with Michigan Director of Elections Jonathan Brater about whether Hollier had any outstanding finance issues as of April 15 when the affidavit of identity was due. She cited a letter from Brater confirming that Hollier had submitted all required statements, reports, fees and fines. 

Democrat Michael Griffie is asking a Wayne County judge to order the removal of his opponent, state Sen. Adam Hollier, from the ballot for U.S. House in the new 13th District.

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

Griffie's attorneys in their Monday filing said Brater in his response to Garrett confirmed that Hollier's committee was issued notices of error/omission regarding past campaign finance statements and that the state's Electronic Reporting and Tracking Systems "did not indicate that those notices had been satisfied ..." 

Griffie in court records argues that Garrett had a "clear legal duty" not to certify Hollier for the ballot. 

Hollier in an interview stressed that the Secretary of State's Bureau of Elections is the professional, state authority on these issues, and questioning their ruling is "the kind of thing that you see from the MAGA folks who do not believe that the Secretary of State knows how to do their job." 

"We're Democrats. Democrats are supposed to want people on the ballot. We're supposed to want voters to be able to go and choose, and I have fought my entire career to make sure that when voters go to the ballot, they have the opportunity to vote for the person that they like," Hollier said.

"That is not about gamesmanship or legal loopholes, or things like that. It is about doing the right thing consistently."

Hollier's attorneys in a legal response to Griffie's challenge had 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 Hollier had submitted an incorrect attestation, that wouldn't be grounds to exclude him from the ballot. They contended that state law requires candidates to attest only that all “statements, reports, late filing fees, and fines required of the candidate . . . have been filed or paid.”  

That list does not include a response to an error/omission notice, Hollier's team argued, so he would have been "utterly truthful" in stating that all his outstanding statements, fees and fines had been filed or paid. 

"In short, Griffie’s transparent (and flawed) attempt to keep his political opponent off of the ballot based on a technicality should be rejected, and Senator Hollier should be certified as a candidate for Michigan’s 13th Congressional District on the primary and general elections ballots," Hollier attorney W. Alan Wilk wrote. 

Garrett this month disqualified two other Democratic candidates from the ballot for the 13th District race: Angela E. McIntosh and Adrian Tonon, who was Detroit's first 24-hour economy ambassador or “night mayor.”

Garrett determined both had an insufficient number of signatures to qualify for the primary ballot, according to copies of the letters she sent the candidates.

mburke@detroitnews.com