DEARBORN — The 19th District Court Judge race for the city of Dearborn intensified last week when candidate Candyce Abbatt filed challenges against one of her opponents, Sam Salamey, in an effort to have his name removed from the ballot on the grounds that the nominating petitions filed by Salamey do not have the minimum number of 400 signatures of registered Dearborn voters. The two candidates in addition to Judge Richard Wygonik will go head to head during the Primaries on August 7th. The move has surprised Salamey's campaign who claim they have debunked Abbatt's claims and have launched an ethical investigation.
In the challenges filed on May 7 with the Secretary of State, Abbatt claimed that her opponent did not have the required 400 valid signatures from Dearborn residents in order to run for city judge. Despite Salamey having gathered more than 800 signatures and submitting them to the state in late February, over two months before the May 1st deadline, Abbatt claims that only around 279 of those signatures were valid.
Salamey's campaign says the discrepancies pointed out in Abbatt’s claims may come down to common and excusable human errors. Slight misspellings of street names such as Jonason instead of Jonathon or Elizibit instead of Elizabeth were challenged by Abbatt. Other challenges included people's names such as various misspellings of Mohamed or Mohamad, Abbass or Abbas and Lena or Lina.
According to Salamey's campaign, Abbatt even challenged signatures that appeared to be "cross marks" when they were actual signatures that had some form of scribble or crossing in them. The use of Mike instead of Mohamed and Alex instead of Ali were also challenged if the voters had used any form of nicknames that differed from what was registered with the city.
Salamey’s campaign points out that members of Salamey’s own family signatures, including his sisters, brothers in law, nieces and nephews were deemed as "fake signatures" by Abbatt as well.
When asked to personally comment on the subject, Sam Salamey stated that he does not wish to go into detail while the matter is pending, however he did say the following.
"While candidate Abbatt has the right to file a meritorious challenge, she should have known better than to file a challenge premised on reasons that are recognized by the Michigan Secretary of State as legitimate exceptions that will neither invalidate nor disqualify a voter’s signature."
Abbatt’s claims are expected to be reviewed at the next Board of State Canvassers meeting, which will convene the 1st week of June. She is challenging around 480 of the signatures on Salamey's petitions and if the canvassers don’t deem 120 of the challenges invalid, Salamey will remain on the ballot.
Salamey’s campaign is confident that the majority of Abbatt’s challenges hold no merit. Since Abbatt’s dispute the campaign hired an attorney who is preparing an ethical investigation against Abbatt for possible perjury committed in connection with the challenges. The campaign also claims that Abbatt’s challenges were filed in bad faith and will seek both law enforcement and state bar authorities review.
"We are very confident that the Board of Canvassers will quickly dismiss the vicious challenge that was filed by Mrs. Abbatt. There were more petition signatures far exceeding the number required and these challenges are baseless and in some instances made up out of whole cloth and bordering on perjury on Mrs. Abbatt's part. Throughout our investigation and review we found that so many of the so called challenges were just made up or manufactured on her part. She has a lot of explaining to do and she will have to answer to the authority on this. This isn't something you take lightly when you disenfranchise good law abiding voters in the city of Dearborn," Melvin "Butch" Hollowell, Salamey’s campaign attorney, stated.
Many of the voters who signed Salamey’s petition but were flagged by Abbatt for being invalid signatures have also been expressing their dismay.
"She tried to deny my signature over the simple error of putting my name in the address box and putting my address in the name box. It really shows her integrity when she's attacking a candidate this early in the race. She's using the system in bad faith and probably wasting the taxpayers’ time and dime. It's very petty," stated Amir Makled.
Salamey wasn’t the only candidate that Abbatt’s campaign has targeted. She also requested a copy of 19th District Judge Richard Wygonik’s affidavit, who is also running in the race this year for re-election.
Before this hurdle Salamey had been gaining major ground in the race after being endorsed by the City of Dearborn Mayor John B. O'Reilly last month. The race will mark the second time both Salamey and Abbatt are running for the 19th district court judge. Salamey previously ran in 2006 and barely lost at the primaries while Abbatt dipped into the race in 2008 before losing narrowly to current 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers.
Multiple calls and emails were sent out to Abbatt’s campaign for comment on the story but at press time no response had been given.