Benton Harbor Mayor responds to the recall called off! - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Benton Harbor Mayor responds to the recall called off!

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Benton Harbor's Mayor James Hightower says he was actually upset when first hearing of the Berrien County Judge's decision to call off the mayoral recall election. "We were charged and prepared to go to the polls on Tuesday with a win. with all the input we've been receiving, I'm confident we would have won the election," says Hightower.

Thursday, the Judge ruled a stay for the recall election of current Mayor James Hightower and his opponent Marcus Muhammad. In the written document, the judge states, "The integrity of elections is the keystone of our democracy, and our democratic form of government would not last long without it. We have spilled our blood and exhausted our treasure to instill these concepts in lands where they are foreign. We should not ignore these concepts at home, and if we were to do so, our democratic form would be exposed to irreparable harm."

As much as Hightower wanted to move forward with the election, he says he was confident after challenging 190 signatures on the recall petition ballots that it wouldn't go through. He says, "Our state legislatures need to take a look at the overall election process, especially as to how clerks check them. We had over 190 challenges on those petitions, and that's when I knew they didn't have enough signatures, but I believe these clerks had so much pressure on them from city and council members to push this through."

The Berrien County Clerk approved the recall petitions before Hightower challenged them. Michigan State Police led an investigation over alleged forged dates and signatures. "Knowing the circumstances, seeing the petitions, I knew there was no judge in the land that would allow this election to take place," says Hightower.

Hightower says ballots were already made for Tuesdays election, and $1,200 was spent on ballots by the city alone. "Today is not a win for James Hightower, but it is a win for Benton Harbor and its residents. They are protected and that's what the law is supposed to do."
Hightower says he's confident after seeing the petitions, the case won't go that much further in court. He says this is behind him, and he's looking forward to his election in 2015. "That's why we didn't put any dates on our election signs, because we're ready for 2015," says. Hightower's mayoral term ends in December 2015.

"I'm beyond being mad about this. We need to fix the government of Benton Harbor and bring back its reputation."  Hightower says this recall controversy has been a distraction, "It's a distraction not only for me, but for this city. This city needs a rest from all the political upheaval. I've had two recalls. The first because I was speaking with business owners. The second is because I voted no at putting the income tax on the ballot, and the citizens voted no as well. I think this is just a personal attack. It has nothing to do with moving the city forward, but people looking for their own personal gains and fame."

Marcus Muhammad is hold a news conference this afternoon.  We'll update this story with his comments following his statement.
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