Democratic Rep. Shri Thanedar’s Chief Opponent Disqualified From Primary Ballot

Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.) listens to comments before the NAACP Detroit branch Fight for Freedom Fund dinner in Detroit, on May 19.
Rep. Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.) listens to comments before the NAACP Detroit branch Fight for Freedom Fund dinner in Detroit, on May 19. Paul Sancya via Associated Press

Freshman Democrat Shri Thanedar may have a much easier time getting reelected this year after initiating a challenge that disqualified his chief rival from the primary ballot for his Detroit-based U.S. House seat.

Thanedar’s opponent, Adam Hollier, suspended his campaign over the weekend, less than two weeks after the clerk in Detroit’s Wayne County found that Hollier hadn’t submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for the Democratic primary ballot. Michigan’s secretary of state on Thursday declined to overturn the decision.

“Unfortunately, during the critical signature gathering process, I took my eye off the ball. I put my trust in someone who not only let me down, but let down tens of thousands of voters in this district who deserve a representative who shows up and fights for them,” Hollier said in a statement to HuffPost.

Thanedar still faces three Democratic challengers in August, but none seem as formidable as Hollier, a former member of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s cabinet. While it’s rare for political figures to come out against incumbents from their own parties, Hollier had endorsements from former Detroit Rep. Brenda Lawrence and Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

On Thursday, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan endorsed Detroit City Councilman Mary Waters in the primary, the latest sign that Thanedar has struggled to build relationships with key district leaders during his year and a half in office.

A chemist and entrepreneur who emigrated from India at age 24, Thanedar self-funded his 2022 campaign for Congress and has already loaned his 2024 campaign over $3.3 million.

Thanedar faces questions over whether he’s an effective representative for his majority Black district. His detractors say he’s overly self-promotional and cite high turnover among his staff — criticisms that Thanedar argues are untrue and politically motivated. They also cite the fact that Detroit, one of the country’s largest majority Black cities, does not have a Black representative for the first time in 70 years.

The freshman representative has also gotten blowback for his unwavering support for Israel amid its war on Gaza.

But House Democratic leaders, who try to downplay races that might make the party look weak, have gotten behind Thanedar, calling him a “common-sense legislator” whom they “vigorously endorse.”

In a statement Sunday to the Detroit News, Thanedar said he couldn’t stay silent after examining Hollier’s petitions and spotting false signatures. Thanedar’s April complaint to Wayne County officials kicked off the review that ultimately resulted in Hollier’s disqualification. 

“No one is above the law, whether you are supported by the wealthy or the powerful. When I saw hundreds of fraudulent and out of the district signatures that his campaign submitted, I could not sit still and made a challenge to uphold the integrity of the election process,” Thanedar said.

It’s not unusual, at least in Michigan, for paid circulators to dupe candidates. Though Hollier said Thanedar’s challenge was “made in bad faith,” he admitted the person contracted for the job submitted false signatures.

Thanedar this month downplayed the threat Hollier posed to his reelection and told HuffPost he looks forward to continuing to serve in office.

“I’ve been doing good work,” he told HuffPost. “I’ve been in constant contact with my constituents. I have a huge amount of support, and I think they will support me regardless.”

Arthur Delaney contributed reporting.