LANSING (AP) — Michigan gubernatorial candidate Shri Thanedar filed a challenge Tuesday to the ballot eligibility of Abdul El-Sayed, a Democratic primary opponent currently weathering a tangle of skepticism over the validity of his bid.
Thanedar said he wrote to the state elections bureau that El-Sayed has not been a register
ed voter over the four years leading up to this fall’s general election — a requirement under Michigan’s constitution and election law.
“This will be good for the party,” Thanedar said Tuesday. “The bureau needs to do its job and give us closure so that our party can move forward.”
El-Sayed spokesman Adam Joseph maintained the candidate meets eligibility requirements.
“As we’ve long held, Abdul is 100 percent eligible to be governor,” Joseph said. “But that won’t stop candidates from futile attempts at using this manufactured controversy as a smokescreen.”
Election records show El-Sayed has been continuously registered to vote in Michigan since 2003, Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams said. He said his office plans to review and make recommendations to the Board of Canvassers later this month regarding the four total complaints filed against El-Sayed’s eligibility.
The third Democratic candidate for governor, former Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, backed El-Sayed’s candidacy.
“This race should be decided by the voters of Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement.
Thanedar’s challenge cites El-Sayed’s past stint in New York, where he lived until moving back to be Detroit’s health director in 2015. It also accuses lawyers for GOP candidate and state attorney general Bill Schuette of meddling in the controversy to disrupt his rival party’s primary.
Schuette’s spokeswoman Andrea Bitely said the team of assistant attorney generals involved in reviewing El-Sayed’s candidacy report exclusively to the Michigan secretary of state, not Schuette.
In March, El-Sayed filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory ruling on his eligibility to run for governor in the hopes it would quell his doubters once and for all. But Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, a Republican, sought last month to dismiss the case on grounds that there was no “actual controversy” at the time.
Thanedar, an Ann Arbor businessman, has recently polled neck and neck with Whitmer for their party’s nomination to replace Gov. Rick Snyder. El-Sayed, the ex-Detroit health director, has drawn enthusiasm from many kingpin progressive groups but trails behind the other two.
In the GOP primary, Schuette is facing off with Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and state Sen. Patrick Colbeck.
Sam Newton, a spokesman for the Michigan Democratic Party, declined to comment on the eligibility question.