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Rep. Shri Thanedar Lucks Out Following His Black Challenger’s Disqualification in Michigan Democratic Primary

Rep. Shri Thanedar Lucks Out Following His Black Challenger’s Disqualification in Michigan Democratic Primary

  • According to Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett, the Indian American congressman’s opponent failed to submit enough valid voter signatures to qualify.

Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.) received a major boost to his Congressional campaign this week, as his opponent Adam Hollier was disqualified from contesting the primary race in the 13th district. 

The decision was made on May 21 by Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett, who confirmed to the Associated Press that Hollier had “failed to submit enough valid voter signatures” as had been alleged in a petition challenge mounted the first-term Indian American incumbent.

The AP said while the decision could significantly help Thanedar’s re-election bid, it is” a blow to Detroit’s Black community after coalescing around Hollier, who is Black.” 

In the November 2022 elections, the Belgaum-born 67-year-old entrepreneur and self-made millionaire defeated his Republican challenger Martell Bivings by a landslide from an overwhelmingly Democratic district. His win is significant given that he is the first non-Black representative in over 70 years from the newly redrawn 13th District which is now 45 percent Black. It covers most of Detroit, Hamtramck, the Grosse Pointes and the Downriver communities. He occupies the seat held by Democratic U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence of Southfield, the state’s sole African American in Congress, who is retiring at the end of her term. 

In April, Hollier submitted 1,550 signatures to meet the ballot requirement, “surpassing the 1,000 needed,” the AP reported. Thanedar challenged “the validity of the signatures, and Wayne County election staff found that close to half of the signatures were invalid,” the report added. 

In a letter to Thanedar, Garrett wrote about conducting  “a thorough and comprehensive check of the petition signatures” filled by Hollier, according to the AP. “A review of the handwriting and flourishes within each signature on each line for petitions S2-S10 show the same distinct handwriting and patterns indicative that the same hand fraudulently signed every line of each petition sheet,” she added. 

According to Michigan Advance, Garrett’s investigation found that “only 863 of the 1,553 signatures submitted by Hollier were valid, leaving him 137 signatures short of the 1,000 needed to qualify for the ballot as a U.S. House candidate.”

The AP also speculated that Detroit’s Black community could now potentially support Mary Waters, a former state House member who has served on the Detroit City Council since 2021. “But Waters had raised less than $10,000 through the end of March, and her campaign was seen as a longshot,” the AP report said. However, Thanedar has “a major cash advantage on Waters close to a month before absentee ballots will be sent out,” the AP added. Shakira Lynn Hawkins, an attorney, is also running in the Democratic primary. 

Thanedar, a one-term Michigan state legislator, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic party nomination for governor in 2018. He has passed 18 bills, including one to bring $94 million to Detroit Public Schools.

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He came to the U.S. in 1979 and got his Ph.D. in chemistry and an MBA. He took out loans to buy a company he worked for, Chemir, and built it from a $150,000 company to one with a revenue of $14 million before selling it for $26 million. He next started Avomeen Analytical Services, a chemical testing laboratory.

He sold the majority stakes in it in 2016 and, according to his campaign bio, retired to get involved in public service to answer “the call to fight for social, racial and economic justice.” He has a doctorate in chemistry from the University of Akron, a post-doctoral degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s in business administration from Fontbonne University, a private, non-profit four-year institution in Missouri.

Last September, he launched the ‘Hindu Caucus’ in the U.S. Congress to bring like-minded lawmakers under one umbrella to eliminate hate and bigotry against Hindus in the country. “It is important that every person has a right to choose a religion, pray (to) a God that he or she chooses without persecution, without discrimination, without hate or for those who may choose not to pray to a God,” he said at the first-ever Hindu American Summit at the Capitol Visitor Center in June last year “These are freedoms that are fundamental. These are fundamental human rights,” he told attendees at the event, organized by Americans4Hindus and supported by 20 other Hindu American groups.

(Top photo, Rep. Shri Thanedar / Facebook)

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