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Candidate for John Conyers’ seat sues Gov. Snyder over special election date

In this March 13, 2017,  photo, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaks during a news conference in Detroit. (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)
In this March 13, 2017, photo, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder speaks during a news conference in Detroit. (Carlos Osorio / Associated Press)
By Paul Egan Detroit Free Press

DETROIT – A candidate who wants to replace U.S. Rep. John Conyers in Congress has filed a federal lawsuit against Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, alleging the 11-month delay in holding a special election to fill the vacant seat is unconstitutional.

Michael Gilmore, a Detroit attorney who is one of several Democratic candidates seeking to replace Conyers, filed the lawsuit Thursday on behalf of five voters who live in the 13th Congressional District.

Conyers, D-Mich., who was the longest-serving current member of Congress at the time, announced his retirement and resigned in early December. Conyers cited health reasons, but his announcement followed a wave of sexual harassment allegations from former employees.

On Dec. 8, Snyder announced that special primary and general elections to choose Conyers’ successor would be held on the already scheduled primary and general election dates – Aug. 7 and Nov. 6, respectively.

Snyder cited cost savings for choosing the dates and the Democratic chairman of the 13th Congressional District, Jonathan Kinloch, said he supported and advocated for the dates Snyder chose.

But the lawsuit alleges the delay violates voters’ constitutional rights to due process, equal protection under the law and the rights to vote and political expression.

“As a result of the standing vacancy, the district did not have a vote on the $1.5-trillion tax reform law recently passed by Congress and will continue to be voiceless on important issues,” the lawsuit alleges.

Michigan’s 13th is an irregular-shaped congressional district that includes parts of Detroit and Dearborn Heights, as well as Highland Park, Redford Township, Ecorse, Garden City, Inkster, Melvindale, River Rouge, Romulus, Wayne and Westland.

Anna Heaton, a spokeswoman for Snyder, said Friday that his office does not comment on pending litigation.

But in choosing the election date, Snyder’s office consulted with the Wayne County executive’s office, the office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, and the Secretary of State’s Office “before deciding that aligning with the currently existing election dates were the best choice to allow candidates ample time to mount a campaign and at the same time, save money for local taxpayers,” Heaton said.

Gilmore has scheduled a Tuesday news conference outside the federal courthouse in Detroit to discuss the lawsuit.

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