Detroit could once again be without black representation in Congress as its leading candidate is no longer running for election

LANSING, Michigan (AP) — A Detroit Democrat will not appear on the ballot after gaining significant support within the party in his bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Shri Thanedar in Michigan's August primary election after election officials determined he had not cast enough valid signatures.

Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett's decision Tuesday to keep former state Sen. Adam Hollier off the ballot could leave Detroit in limbo without black representation in Congress for the second consecutive time. Detroit, which is nearly 80% Black, had partial Black representation in Congress for nearly 70 years until 2023.

In April, Hollier submitted 1,550 signatures to meet the ballot requirement, exceeding the 1,000 required. Thanedar questioned the validity of the signatures, and Wayne County elections staff determined that nearly half of the signatures were invalid.

The ruling, which can be appealed to the Michigan Secretary of State's office, is a major blow to Thanedar's re-election and a blow to Detroit's black community, which has rallied around Hollier, who is black.

“I am extremely disappointed with the message from the Wayne County Clerk following her professional review of our petitions,” Hollier said in a statement Tuesday. “Not for myself, but for the voters of the 13th District who deserve a real choice in who their next congressman will be.”

Thanedar, a former state representative and immigrant from India, led a field of nine candidates in the 2022 Democratic primary. Hollier came second, losing by nearly 4,000 votes.

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Thanedar's victory left Detroit this season without black representation in Congress for the first time since the early 1950s.

Michigan's 12th congressional district, which includes part of Detroit, is represented by U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaiba Palestinian American woman. She faces no significant challenges in her primary.

Faith leaders in Detroit and senior Michigan Democrats, including Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, supported Hollier's campaign. In a rare move, the Congressional Black Caucus leadership also endorsed Hollier over the incumbent.

“It's a bit of a nuisance among black Detroiters that they're not represented in Congress, but also among Democrats in general,” said Adrian Hemond, a Democratic strategist in Michigan. “If you want to be able to continue to encourage black Detroiters to vote, it’s important to have some representation in Congress.”

Without Hollier's departure, that support could potentially shift to Mary Waters, a former member of the state House of Representatives who has served on the Detroit City Council since 2021. But Waters had raised less than $10,000 by the end of March, and her campaign was considered hopeless. Shakira Lynn Hawkins, a lawyer, is also running in the Democratic primary.

Thanedar, a wealthy businessman who spent more than $10 million of his own fortune to run for governor in 2018, holds a significant cash advantage over Waters less than a month before mail-in ballots are sent out.

“Hollier was always going to be behind when it came to resources, but he would at least have the resources to compete. Waters is not going to do that,” said Hemond, the Democratic strategist. “Shri is going to spend money because that's how he campaigns. And I expect Shri to win this primary now.”

Detroit is heavily Democratic, making the primary winner the overwhelming favorite to win the November general election.

Hollier is the latest high-profile Michigan candidate to be rocked by signature fraud. Just two years ago, five Republicans running for governor were disqualified from the ballot after forged signatures were found on their nomination petitions. Several people have been charged with forgery and other related offenses. fake petition signatures However, no candidate has been personally accused of knowingly submitting fraudulent petitions.

In his statement Tuesday, Hollier said he had placed his trust “in someone who let us down in the signature gathering process.” His campaign previously said the “fraudulent activities were not carried out at the direction” of the campaign. Wayne County elections staff determined that nearly 700 of the 1,550 signatures submitted by Hollier were invalid, citing the signers' lack of registered voters in the county and the duplication of entries.

Hollier accused Thanedar of trying to disenfranchise Detroit's black voters with his challenge, but Thanedar said all candidates should be expected to follow the rules to participate in the election and “ensure the integrity of our electoral process.” .

“Very little is being asked of people who want to vote,” Thanedar told The Associated Press at an event in Detroit on Sunday. “All they need is 1,000 valid signatures. I don’t think it’s a big challenge.”

Thanedar District is home to part of the Detroit metropolitan area's large Arab-American population and electorate refused his loyal support Israel's war against Hamas. In December, pro-Palestinian protesters disrupted an event where he was speaking, and this month someone vandalized his community center with graffiti including the word “ceasefire.”

Opposing viewpoints on the Israel-Hamas war also led to a clash with Tlaib, who said Thanedar was too “busy posting memes” to help his constituents.

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty of Ohio, a former chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, also criticized Thanedar's online presence in endorsing Hollier, saying he would deliver results while “some politicians would rather tweet than show up.”


Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Detroit, Michigan, contributed to this report.

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