Panel OKs special designation for Rep. Banks on ballot
Wayne County’s Elections Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to put the designation “state representative” by the name of Democratic state Rep. Brian Banks on the August primary ballot.
Banks, D-Detroit, who represents the 1st House District, asked the three-member panel to designate him the incumbent on the Aug. 2 ballot because a candidate in the Republican primary shares his first name. District 1 covers a part of Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and a portion of Harper Woods.
State law allows incumbents to petition for special designation in the event two or more candidates running “for the same office have the same or similar surnames.”
The second-term representative sought the incumbency label on the ballot for the Democratic primary after Brian Barill of Grosse Pointe Woods filed as a Republican in the 1st District.
Wayne County Probate Court Chief Judge Freddie Burton, who chairs the county elections commission, made the motion to grant Banks the designation of state representative. County Clerk Cathy Garrett and County Treasurer Richard Hathaway are the two other members of the panel.
“If you read Brian C. Banks and Brian Charles Barril, I can see where some voters might get a little confused,” Burton said. “That is an issue. And that’s why I think it’s important to provide a designation that does not overly influence or give an advantage to the candidate getting the designation.”
“I think we have to take some action today,” he said. “And I think that at least either side will then have the opportunity to appeal this decision if they’re not satisfied with it.”
Banks was at the meeting along with two other candidates for the office, Republican William Broman of Grosse Pointe Woods and Democrat Pamela Sossi of Harper Woods. Keith Hollowell of Grosse Pointe Woods is also running for the post as a Democrat.
Sossi argued against giving Banks a special designation and urged the commission to use his date of birth, address or middle name to help his name stand out on the ballot.
“I object to the designation as requested in this instance,” she said. “I think the designation is unduly prejudicial to the other candidates running for this position.”
After the vote, Banks declined to comment and referred questions to his attorney, John Pirich.
“The board obviously did the right thing and granted an appropriate designation,” Pirich said. “This will eliminate voter confusion for people who don’t know the difference and spoiling the ballot, which is something that happens on a regular basis, especially in primaries.”
Banks faced five primary opponents in August 2014 because of his record of eight felony convictions from 1998 to 2004 for credit card fraud and writing bad checks. He also was evicted for not paying his rent prior to being elected in 2012.
Last fall, the Michigan House of Representatives settled a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a former aide against Banks for $11,950. Tramaine Cotton sued Banks in May 2013, claiming the lawmaker wrongfully fired him after he rejected Banks’ sexual advances — accusations that Banks rejected.
The lengthy legal proceeding, which included a trip to the Court of Appeals, cost the House $85,623 for attorneys to defend the firing of Cotton.
The filing deadline for state House candidates is 4 p.m. April 19.