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Candidate who changed name to Hathaway before run for Wayne County judge loses

After declaring victory, Hathaway lost by 371 votes
Nicholas Hathaway
Posted at 11:17 AM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 18:28:00-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A candidate who changed his last name to one of Wayne County's most recognized political brands lost his bid for a seat on the bench after prematurely declaring victory.

Nicholas Hathaway, who had lived his life as Nick Bobak until a month before running for judge last year, appeared to narrowly secure a seat on the bench after votes were initially tallied.

"I cannot put into words how grateful I am for everyone who worked to help me achieve this goal!" Hathaway wrote on Facebook. "WE WON!"

The top two vote-getters in the race would be elected to the bench. While Hathaway appeared headed for a narrow victory in the days after the election, trailing first place candidate Mary Beth Kelly by about 30,000 votes, he was ahead of third place candidate Chandra Baker.

RELATED: Candidate for Wayne County judge insists he didn’t change his name to fool voters

But when the vote was certified by the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, the totals changed. Hathaway's lead evaporated and Baker, along with Kelly, was declared the winner.

Out of more than one million cast ballots, Hathaway lost by just 371 votes.

Last year, Hathaway filed paperwork to change his name from Bobak. He'd been married to Wayne County Judge Dana Hathaway for 12 years, but only changed his name last November.

Hathaway declined an interview, but in a statement insisted the name change was done to honor his wife and not for political gain.

The move was panned by his opponents, including Shakira Lynn Hawkins.

“I always used to joke that anyone running for judge in Wayne County should change their last name to Hathaway,” Hawkins said in September. It was pretty shocking that that actually came to fruition.”

She said by changing his name just before running for office, Hathaway appeared to be trying to deceive voters.

“I think it becomes an issue of transparency when an elected official changes their name just prior to running to office,” Hawkins said. “I say we should all run on our own merit. A name is not any judge of character.”

Reached today via text, Hathaway declined comment on the election outcome.

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.