Every election season, we see first-time candidates – often political neophytes – searching for a potentially lucrative location to run for office.
They don’t declare their candidacy in their hometown or the community where they’ve spent their recent years. They make a choice based on political territory where they think they have a shot at winning.
Mellissa Carone has emerged in 2022 as the ultimate poster child for district-shopping.
Best known as Rudy Giuliani’s wacky witness at a 2020 state legislative hearing on election fraud, a video of which went viral, Carone is running for state Senate in Macomb County after listing seven separate residences in less than three years.
Before Carone, 35, became swept up in the political scene, she registered to vote in Allen Park in July 2019. At that time, she was facing criminal charges for mounting a harassment campaign against her boyfriend’s ex-wife, including sending the woman sex tapes of the couple. For the court case, she listed a Grosse Pointe Woods address.
In October 2020, she switched her voter registration to Dearborn Heights, shortly after completing her sentence of 12 months probation for her conviction. Less than a month later, she was working at TCF Center in Detroit on the vote-counting process for the presidential election.
Her false claims about the "fraud" she said she saw at the center made her the butt of jokes by late-night TV comedians and the subject of a sketch on "Saturday Night Live." But she also became an instant icon in many Republican circles, speaking at “stop the steal” rallies in Lansing and Washington and at numerous GOP events.
Carone never voted for Trump
While basking in her new role as a champion for Donald Trump – doing interviews with Fox News and "Inside Edition" and inspiring the formation of a group called “Yoopers for Mellissa Carone” – Carone never revealed that she had not voted for Trump. Election records show that she did not vote in the 2016 or 2020 presidential elections. The only time she voted was in the August 2020 state primary.
Just two months after appearances before House and Senate committees in Lansing and nearly two years before the 2020 elections, Carone began her quest to convert her infamously high profile into a political career, announcing that she was running for the state House in a heavily Republican north Oakland County district.
While still registered to vote in Dearborn dozens of miles away, she filed for the 46th District seat by listing a Lake Orion address. Her filing papers gave an address for her campaign committee that was a UPS store. To run for the seat, she had to live in the district and so she told Deadline Detroit that she was house shopping.
‘Knows absolutely nothing about elections’
Carone, who has used the name Mellissa Wright in the past, says that she is a former model and IT worker. Her lack of political knowledge showed when she filed for office, not realizing that the Michigan redistricting process was well underway, dramatically redrawing legislative districts and assigning new district numbers. She insisted the 46th District would remain unchanged.
“It’s been verified by numerous people,” she told the Huffington Post, without providing specifics. “The question is quite silly.”
State Sen. Curtis Hertel, Jr., a Democrat, chimed in with a Facebook post: “Who wants to explain to Mellissa Carone that the 46th district, which she doesn’t live in, won’t exist after redistricting? It’s almost like she knows absolutely nothing about elections.”
In the end, the 46th District became a territory in the Jackson area, roughly 100 miles from Lake Orion.
Carone abandoned her plans to run in Oakland County and changed her target in May 2021 to a north Macomb County district, indicating that she was living in Memphis (the one in Michigan). Soon she set her sights on St. Clair Shores, registering there in September 2021. That didn’t last long.
Nor did her next attempt at finding a path to the campaign trail.
Last month, Carone filed to run for state House in Macomb Township, declaring her address as a condo near the edge of the 60th House District boundary. But on March 31 she was disqualified because she falsely claimed, in a sworn affidavit, that she had no outstanding financial issues with the state Bureau of Elections. In fact, she owed more than $1,000 in punitive fees for ignoring campaign finance reporting deadlines.
Carone vowed to sue to win back her ballot spot, but she was running out of time.
One day before last Tuesday's state filing deadline for candidates, she switched her registration to a small house surrounded by farms in Macomb Township. On filing day, she decided less than an hour before the 4 p.m. deadline to run in the 11th Senate District, citing the condo as her address and another UPS store as her campaign committee location. About an hour later, she changed her voter registration to the condo.
Carone’s final choice, from a political standpoint, was not good: The 11th is a 52-percent Democratic district and she'll be running in August's primary against an incumbent Republican.
Yet, nothing seems to faze Carone. She plans to make her priority issue in the upcoming campaign the strengthening of election integrity.
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