State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced a bill that would have helped one of his 2018 political opponents avert criminal charges.
The issue came up in the four-way, open Democratic primary for state Senate District 18 that Irwin narrowly won in August 2018. He took 35.6% of the vote, followed by former Washtenaw County Commissioner Michelle Deatrick with 35.2%. Businesswoman Anuja Rajendra earned 26.3% and Matthew Miller had 2.9%. Irwin, a former state House member, easily won the strongly Democratic district in the November general election.
During the course of the primary campaign, Rajendra issued campaign mailers that the Washtenaw County prosecutor decided violated that law, MLive reported.
One of them included the phrase: “As your State Senator, I’m steadfast in my commitment ….” Deatrick supporters filed complaints against Rajendra. She faced two counts of false incumbency designation, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or $500 in fines.
Political observers, by and large, were shocked that the prosecutor filed criminal charges against her. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) backed Rajendra, arguing it was a First Amendment issue.
In January, a judge dismissed the case. Now Irwin has legislation so that this doesn’t happen again.
“Senator Irwin was made aware of regarding false incumbency because of Anuja Rajendra’s case,” Irwin Chief of Staff Desmond Miller said in an email. “After reviewing the language of the law, he believed it needed to be repealed.”
The bill has been referred to the state Senate Elections Committee.