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Death of Robert Jones raises questions about election

Michigan State Representative Robert Jones and friend
Photo from Jones campaign website
Michigan State Representative Robert Jones and friend

Michigan House Representative and current Democratic candidate for State Senate Robert Jones died this past weekend. He was 66 and being treated for esophogeal cancer, but officials at Kalamzoo's Democratic Party Headquarters say his death still came as a surprise.

Jones' death has raised several questions about the race for the State Senate seat in Michigan's 20th district (representing parts of Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties).

  • Will his name appear on the ballot?
  • Will Democrats nominate another candidate?
  • What about the absentee ballots already cast?

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports:

Even though some absentee ballots have already been distributed, Michigan does not allow the name of a deceased person to appear on a ballot. That means Democrats must move quickly to name a replacement candidate, said Kalamazoo County Clerk Tim Snow.

Ken Silfven at the Michigan Secretary of State'soffice says officials in the office are trying to figure out what to do. He says they're reviewing the state's laws now, and might have to bring in the Attorney General's office for some clarification.

He expects them to have more answers later today or tomorrow. At that time, he says, they'll tell local election officials how to proceed.

Jones served as mayor of Kalamazoo for several terms and most recently served in the Michigan House of Representatives. Jones' opponent, Republican Tonya Schuitmaker, says she's suspending her campaign for the moment.

This post appeared on the Michigan Liberal blog the day of his death:

We are sitting here right now at Kalamazoo County Democratic Party headquarters, heartbroken. There are really no words to say. Bob has been at the center of our party for so many years, from his years as Kalamazoo Mayor, to his years in the House, his was the voice that defined our party and got us energized to get out and do what needed to be done.

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.