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Campaign cites double standard in mid-Michigan congressional race challenge

Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr., (D-East Lansing) debates Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) on how to fix Michigan’s roads. The public debate was organized by MIRS with Capitol with MIRS Editor Kyle Melinn moderating.
David Olds
Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr., (D-East Lansing) debates Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) on how to fix Michigan’s roads. The public debate was organized by MIRS with Capitol with MIRS Editor Kyle Melinn moderating.

A Republican is seeking to disqualify Democratic candidate Curtis Hertel Jr. from Michigan’s 7th Congressional District, claiming he made errors in his election forms.

But the mid-Michigan candidate’s campaign is pointing out that the challenger, a past GOP state election official who abstained from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election, allowed other candidates to run despite similar technicalities.

Norm Shinkle, a former Republican member of the Board of State Canvassers, wants to remove Hertel as he runs against former state Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte) in the battleground congressional district.

According to the challenge filed Tuesday, Hertel made an error on his candidate affidavit and nominating petition when he wrote that he was running for “U.S. Congress” instead of the U.S. House.

“The reason that's a problem is because U.S. Congress is the branch of government,” said Charles Spies, an attorney representing Shinkle. “We have Senate races on the ballot in Michigan and the House of Representatives.”

Nominating petition filed by candidate Curtis Hertel Jr.  Under the title of office he wrote he is running for U.S. Congress.
Curtis Hertel Jr. Election nominating petition
Nominating petition filed by candidate Curtis Hertel Jr to represent Michigan's seventh district in the House of Representatives.

The complaint argues that the language Hertel used on the documents is not consistent with Michigan election law and should force his exclusion from August’s primary ballot.

“As a matter of law, Hertel’s errors in his affidavit of identity and nominating petitions are fatal,” the challenge stated.

Hertel’s campaign noted Shinkle, who resigned in 2022 after serving 13 years on the board, ignored comparable statements on other election forms when processing candidates.

According to nominating petitions reviewed by WKAR, Republican Reps. Lisa McClain and John James did not specify which branch of Congress they were running for in 2022 while Shinkle served as election official. Both candidates listed their congressional districts on the forms.

2020 congressional candidates Jon Hadley, a Democrat, and Republican Doug Slocum similarly did not list “U.S. House” in their approved filings.

Hertel’s campaign plans to use the documents to refute the challenge to his candidacy.

"This is a frivolous complaint. There is no doubt that Curtis Hertel will appear on the ballot in November. This attempted challenge will be as successful as Barrett’s previous campaign for Congress,” said Sophia Brown, a spokesperson for the Hertel campaign.

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers is expected to evaluate the challenge at its next meeting at the end of May.

As WKAR's Bilingual Latinx Stories Reporter, Michelle reports in both English and Spanish on stories affecting Michigan's Latinx community.
Eli Newman is assistant news director and editor. He works with the WKAR news and digital content teams to facilitate the creation of meaningful and thought-provoking multimedia news content for WKAR Public Media.
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