Michigan is a troubled state. Free bottled water ended in early April after Flint, Michigan spent years with poisoned tap water, the state’s Republicans are looking to mark IDs of legal immigrants and the state’s welfare-to-work attitude may soon force Medicaid recipients to meet work requirements. The upcoming gubernatorial election in the Mitten has high stakes.
Enter millionaire businessman Shri Thanedar, an immigrant with a rags-to-riches tale seeking to take the helm of the ship of state in Lansing. He calls himself “the only progressive candidate.” He’s put millions of his own dollars into the campaign.
Shri Thanedar is also being accused of not paying his staff. At the Michigan Democratic Convention, Thanedar was confronted by two men, Demetrius Green and Lawrence Gooden, who claimed that Thanedar had not honored contracts with them when they were hired as paid canvassers.
“He owes me $500, he owes another guy I worked with $600, he owes another guy $7,000. He had us do petitions for him and he didn’t pay us,” Green told Grit Post. “I talked to the Attorney General, he told me to just sue him.”
That’s what Green plans to do. Green, Gooden and over fifty other unpaid Thanedar staffers are organizing a lawsuit alleging that Thanedar’s campaign did not honor their contracts.
According to Gooden, while the contracted canvassers were paid early on, Thanedar’s campaign refused to give out final payments when Thanedar had the signatures he needed to appear on the ballot.
Gooden pointed out that while former staffers are owed tens of thousands of dollars, Thanedar is spending $1 million on new campaign ads.
When Gooden and Green confronted Thanedar at the convention, the candidate did not engage with them in an attempt to resolve the issue. Instead, he ducked into the men’s room.
“He could at least talk to us and try to find out what was going on and why we didn’t get paid. He just ignored us, which showed me that he’s guilty,” said Green. “He didn’t do nothing, That showed me he didn’t care.”
Green said that this was not how a leading candidate for governor should behave.
“If I am running for governor and someone tells me I owe them some money, I wanna find out what are they talking about? How? Give me your name and number, let me see if I can straighten it out. Something. He didn’t want to do any of those things.”
Thanedar has, by and large, not behaved like a typical candidate. The Intercept reported that the self-styled “only progressive candidate” almost ran as a Republican. He also donated to John McCain’s failed presidential bid against Barack Obama. Splinter also mocked him for social media posts about eating fried chicken before meeting with Michigan’s black caucus.
BRUH – a facebook post. about popeyes. before the black caucus forum. stopppp. reminds me of when trump tried to convince people that he liked latino folks by eating a taco bowl #byefelicia #youstillnotinvitedtothecookout #shriaintforme pic.twitter.com/Fs2hkhhSol
— Rhiana Gunn-Wright (@rgunns) April 8, 2018
“Voters, progressive ones, value authenticity and trust in a candidate more than average because it’s the platform and policies we care about and want passed,” said progressive activist Seth Zundel, who recorded an exchange between Green and Gooden and Thanedar. “Michigan deserves honesty and the truth in their candidates.”
Zundel said that the exchange at the convention felt unusual and like a situation Thanedar created, but was far from the only awkward thing Thanedar did at the convention. Zundel pointed to Thanedar attempting to just take the stage during the progressive caucus’ session in order to speak.
“It felt surreal to me, that’s for sure,” said Zundel. “Has he ever even been to political conventions or events?”
The Thanedar campaign did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
As for if he still supports Thanedar’s bid for governor, Green was candid.
“Oh, hell no,” he said. “I would not trust him in any kind of business deals, and I definitely wouldn’t support him as a governor.”
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.