DEARBORN — 19th District Court judge candidate Candyce Abbatt has issued a response to the media in regards to the challenges she filed against her opponent Sam Salamey in the race for court judge this November, deeming that more than half of the nominating petitions signatures to run for city judge should not qualify. If her claims hold up, Salamey cannot remain on the ballot.
In order for a candidate to be qualified to run in the 19th District Court, they must collect 400 valid signatures from residents in the city. Salamey's campaign had collected the maximum number of 800 signatures and turned them over to the state weeks ahead of the May 1 deadline. However, the collected signatures were challenged by Abbatt who claimed that only 270 to 298 of the collected signatures were valid.
Salamey's campaign told The Arab American News two weeks ago that they believe that most of Abbatt's challenges hold no merits and will file a rebuttal and an ethical investigation against Abbatt.
Abbatt's campaign has released the following statement in regards to the matter.
"Abbatt's challenges to Salamey's candidate nominating petitions is a normal part of the election process. In every election, challenges take place and candidates should expect that their petitions will be carefully reviewed by their opponents."
Abbatt's campaign also claims that her challenges against Salamey's signatures are specific: It claims that not enough registered voters signed the petitions, signatures appeared different than what is filed with the state, and that technical defects and duplicate signatures are just some of the inconsistencies in the petitions.
Abbatt added that "Salamey had the same right to review Abbatt’s Petitions and had he found them to be deficient, he would have been entitled to file his own challenges.”
Salamey's campaign has dismissed Abbatt's response and the reasoning for the challenges.
"While we agree that challenges are a normal part of the election process, it goes without saying that challenges have to be made in good faith and must be premised on meritorious grounds. Abbatt is right, candidates should and do expect that their petitions will be carefully reviewed by their opponents, but Abbatt is dead wrong when she alleges that the challenge filed is ordinary or normal. This challenge exhibits prejudicial overtones and is far from being innocent," a statement from Salamey's campaign stated.
Among the signatures Abbatt deemed invalid were signatures by Salamey's own family members including his sisters, brothers, nieces and nephews which were cited as being "fake". Abbatt's press release also points out that prior to filing the challenge, the state had already deemed 42 of Salamey's signatures as invalid, leaving him with 758 signatures. Salamey's campaign however also notes that even though they didn't file challenges against Abbatt, that the state only found 707 of her very own signatures to be valid. If Abbatt had turned in the maximum number of 800 signatures, that would mean 93 of Abbatt’s were found invalid by the state.
"A large number of voters were extremely dismayed at Abbatt’s allegations and they confirmed by sworn affidavits that they signed the petitions themselves. We strongly believe in the fairness of the process and will withhold further comments until the Board of Canvassers issues its opinion. Salamey’s campaign would have preferred not to respond, but the unfortunate continuing campaign of miscellaneous distractions compels a response sometimes," Salamey's campaign statement added.
Michigan's Board of Canvassers is expected to review Abbatt's challenges against Salamey at their next scheduled meeting on June 6. A maximum of 121 of Abbatt's challenges will need to be denied by the board in order for Salamey to remain on the ballot for the Primary being held on August 7th.
Both Abbatt and Salamey have previously run for 19th District Court judge prior to this year’s race. Salamey previously ran in 2006 before he narrowly lost at the Primary while Abbatt also lost a close election in 2008. Also running in the race this year against Abbatt and Salamey is current Judge Richard Wygonik.