Michigan GOP governor hopefuls off ballot, court fight next

May 25, 2022, 8:45 PM | Updated: May 26, 2022, 3:07 pm
FILE - James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, announces he is a Republican candidate for gover...

FILE - James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, announces he is a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, on Sept. 14, 2021, in Detroit. Two leading contenders for the GOP nomination for Michigan governor could be ruled ineligible for the primary ballot on Thursday, after the state's elections bureau said they didn't file enough valid petition signatures to qualify for the August contest. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

(AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

Two of the leading candidates for the GOP nomination for Michigan governor say they will ask the courts to intervene after they were found ineligible Thursday for the August primary, reshaping the race to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the battleground state this fall.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has led in most primary polls, and businessman Perry Johnson, along with three other lesser-known candidates, did not qualify for the ballot. The state elections bureau recommended they be disqualified, saying it found thousands of fraudulent signatures on petitions submitted by the candidates. The vote by the bipartisan Board of State Canvassers was 2-2, with two Democrats supporting the recommendation and two Republicans saying the candidates should get on the ballot.

A tie vote means the candidates lost.

Craig criticized the board’s partisan decision as “a travesty” and said the bureau should have done a line-by-line verification of signatures he submitted, rather than rejecting entire pages based on its findings of fraud. He said the campaign will file an “immediate appeal.”

“We are confident that when the law is justly applied, our campaign will be on the ballot this August,” Craig said.

Johnson has already spent millions of his personal fortune on the contest. Attorney Jason Torchinsky said the state’s process had “fatal flaws that didn’t follow election law” and that he’s confident Johnson will be on the ballot after the court review.

The other lesser-known GOP candidates — Donna Brandenburg, Michael Brown and Michael Markey — also were found ineligible after elections staff said they, too, didn’t turn in enough valid signatures. Brown withdrew from the race on Tuesday.

Democrats challenged the GOP candidates’ petitions, alleging mass forgery and other issues. Another Republican candidate, Tudor Dixon, had also contested Craig’s voter signatures as fake. But the bureau, which is part of Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s department, said it discovered the fraud in its own review and didn’t process the challenges filed by the Michigan Democratic Party and Dixon.

Candidates for governor were required to submit valid signatures from 15,000 registered voters to make the ballot. In a report released late Monday, bureau staff said multiple petition sheets for various candidates “displayed suspicious patterns indicative of fraud.” Some of the petitions for Craig’s campaign, for example, had signatures that all appeared to be written in the same handwriting.

Staff said that while it’s typical for petitions to include scattered instances of dubious signatures, “the Bureau is unaware of another election cycle” with such a “substantial volume” of fraudulent signatures involving multiple candidates. They identified 36 petition circulators — who are often paid per signature gathered — who submitted petition sheets made up entirely of invalid signatures.

The Republicans who remain on the ballot are Dixon, who recently was endorsed by the family of former Trump administration Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, real estate agent Ryan Kelley, businessman Kevin Rinke, pastor Ralph Rebandt and chiropractor Garrett Soldano.

An attorney for Craig said Thursday he has signed affidavits from 15 registered voters whose signatures were determined to be forged, but who say they did sign the candidate’s petition. Lawyer George Lewis also said the campaign acknowledges it appears there was fraud by the people who gathered signatures, but said Craig himself is a victim.

Democratic board member Mary Ellen Gurewitz pushed back. She described Craig’s petitions as “obviously fraudulent” and said the law puts the burden on the candidate to submit valid signatures. Gurewitz also asked what the campaign did to check the validity of the signatures. Lewis said he wasn’t able to provide an answer.

Republican board member Tony Daunt said he rejects suggestions that state staff acted for partisan reasons, as some have alleged. But he said he couldn’t support kicking candidates off the ballot because the staff didn’t have the resources to check every signature.

The bureau said Craig submitted 10,192 valid signatures — well short of the 15,000 needed. It tossed 11,113 signatures, including 9,879 that were allegedly fraudulently collected by 18 paid circulators.

Staff said Johnson turned in 13,800 valid signatures. They threw out 9,393, including 6,983 that they said are fraudulent and were gathered by many of the same people who also forged signatures that Craig submitted.

The bureau said it doesn’t believe specific campaigns or candidates were aware of what “fraudulent-petition circulators” were doing, and said it’s working to refer the fraud to law enforcement for criminal investigation.

Republican Norman Shinkle, chairman of the Board of Canvassers, said the people who committed fraud “should go to prison” but that the courts should decide whether candidates make the ballot.

Michigan Republican Party Chairman Ron Weiser said in a statement that the candidates “should have their time in court” and that they are fighting against voter disenfranchisement.

Meanwhile, Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes called on the GOP candidates whose petitions were reviewed Thursday to withdraw from the race.

“Michiganders deserve accountable leaders, and these candidates have shown they are not capable of that,” she said.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - The Pfizer logo is displayed at the company's headquarters, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. The F...
Associated Press

US allows pharmacists to prescribe Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pharmacists can prescribe the leading COVID-19 pill directly to patients under a new U.S. policy announced Wednesday that’s intended to expand use of Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid. The Food and Drug Administration said pharmacists can begin screening patients to see if they are eligible for Paxlovid and then prescribe the medication, which has […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Reports: Law enforcement officers shoot man on W.Va. highway

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Several law enforcement authorities shot a man on a federal highway in West Virginia, news outlets reported Wednesday, and video of the shooting was circulating on social media. Authorities did not release details or respond to requests for more information. In the video, the man walks onto the four-lane freeway near […]
19 hours ago
FILE - White House counsel Pat Cipollone departs the U.S. Capitol following defense arguments in th...
Associated Press

Trump White House counsel Cipollone to testify to 1/6 panel

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pat Cipollone, Donald Trump’s former White House counsel, is scheduled to testify Friday before the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a person briefed on the matter. Cipollone, whose reported resistance to Trump’s schemes to overturn his 2020 election defeat has made him a long-sought […]
19 hours ago
FILE - Tonya Isabell, left, speaks on June 18, 2020, during a vigil for her cousin Charleena Lyles,...
Associated Press

Inquest: Seattle police shooting of pregnant woman justified

SEATTLE (AP) — An inquest jury found Wednesday that two Seattle police officers were justified in fatally shooting a mentally unstable, pregnant, Black mother of four children inside her apartment when she menaced them with knives in 2017. The six King County coroner’s inquest jurors unanimously determined that officers Jason Anderson and Steven McNew, who […]
19 hours ago
Yesenia Hernandez, granddaughter to Nicolas Toledo, who was killed during Monday's Highland Park., ...
Associated Press

EXPLAINER: Should red-flag law have stopped parade shooting?

CHICAGO (AP) — Days after a rooftop gunman killed seven people at a parade, attention has turned to how the assailant obtained multiple guns and whether the laws on Illinois books could have prevented the Independence Day massacre. Illinois gun laws are generally praised by gun-control advocates as tougher than in most states. But they […]
19 hours ago
Tents are shown Wednesday, July 6, 2022, inside Centennial Park in Anchorage, Alaska. State wildlif...
Associated Press

4 bears killed in Alaska campground reserved for homeless

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska wildlife officials have killed four black bears in a campground recently reserved for people in Anchorage who are homeless after the city’s largest shelter was closed. Employees from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Tuesday killed a sow and her two cubs and another adult bear that was […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
Michigan GOP governor hopefuls off ballot, court fight next