Local attorney Chris Martin has lost his appeal to appear on the ballot for the 54B District Court judgeship race in East Lansing. This means Lisa Babcock will be the only candidate to appear on that portion of the Nov. 8 ballot.
The decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals brings an end to a legal process that has been going on since at least May. The dispute traces back to when Martin filed an affidavit of identity – a form required of all candidates in Michigan – that stated he had no outstanding fees due to the state for campaign activities when Martin in fact owed a $125 late filing fee.
Martin tried to fix his error by paying the fee, withdrawing his candidacy and refiling paperwork. However, the Court of Claims ruled the false statement in the initial filing disqualified him from appearing on the ballot. The ruling was upheld by the appellate court in an opinion made available on Sept. 7.
“I regret and accept responsibility for my initial error on the filing paperwork,” Martin told ELi via email. “But I also believe the voters of East Lansing should have been given the opportunity to consider whether such an issue would affect their vote in this election.”
Martin does not plan to start a write-in campaign at the moment.
“A few supporters and friends have asked me about running as a write-in candidate,” he said. “I am not prepared to completely rule that out, but it is unlikely at this point.”
If Martin does not run as a write-in candidate, Babcock will run unopposed for one of two 54B judgeship positions. Molly Hennessey Greenwalt is running unopposed for the other position after she was appointed to serve by Governor Gretchen Whitmer last year following the resignation of 54B Judge Andrea Larkin.
If Greenwalt and Babcock are elected in November, they will become the second and third women to be elected as judges of 54B, and the first tandem of women to serve alongside each other at that court.
Babcock currently serves on the East Lansing City Council. If she is elected judge, the council will have to appoint a replacement for her seat. Babcock’s departure before the end of her Council term would represent the fourth such vacancy on Council since July 2020, when Mayor Ruth Beier and Council member Mark Meadows resigned. Mayor Aaron Stephens subsequently resigned in August 2021.