Michigan GOP gov candidates being knocked off the ballot

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

There are ten Republicans in Michigan competing to become the party’s nominee to run against Governor Gretchen Whitmer this fall. The primary is scheduled for the first week in August. But that field of hopefuls could be cut in half after a meeting of the Board of State Canvassers today. Five of the candidates, including two that are currently at the top of the most recent polling, have all had their eligibility to appear on the ballot challenged. As we see in too many races every election cycle, all five of them allegedly failed to file enough valid signatures to meet the state’s minimum requirement. If the entire group is disqualified, it will prompt a rapid and potentially chaotic shift in the dynamics of the race, giving some additional hope to Whitmer, who is at risk of losing her job in November. (Associated Press)

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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.

In a recommendation that immediately shook up the governor’s race, board staff on Monday said former Detroit Police Chief James Craig and businessman Perry Johnson, along with three other lesser-known candidates, should be declared ineligible. A four-person, bipartisan Board of State Canvassers will vote on the recommendations Thursday, though candidates that don’t make the ballot could challenge the decision in court.

The candidates were among a 10-person field vying to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for control of the battleground state in November.

There were challenges to the petitions filed by Democrats as well as one of the other Republican candidates. But the Board of State Canvassers claims that they didn’t consider those challenges and found potential discrepancies on their own during a routine review.

This wasn’t just a case of not collecting enough signatures in all cases. It’s being alleged that the Republicans actually submitted forged signatures, which is a far more serious charge than simply coming up short.

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James Craig, the former Police Chief of Detroit and businessman Perry Johnson had been leading in the polls for the past month or more. But both of them now face questions over the validity of the signatures they submitted. One of the other candidates being examined, Michael Brown, withdrew from the race on Tuesday so his petitions won’t wind up being a factor.

The Board claims to have identified 36 paid petition circulators who submitted sheets of signatures that appear to have all been written by the same hand. 18 of those circulators were employed by James Craig. He originally submitted more than 20,000 signatures, but had at least half of them rejected, including nearly 10,000 collected by the paid circulators.

We’ve discussed this here in the past, but it bears repeating for any aspiring political candidates out there. One of the first rules of setting up a campaign organization is to know that your opponents will always examine and challenge your signature sheets. And even the best circulators will come up with the occasional dud. You need to collect far more than the minimum number and you need experienced people to train your volunteers to collect them correctly and fill out all of the forms properly. This is one of the easiest ways for your opponents to knock you out of a race. And if the allegations being raised by the board prove to be true, half of the GOP gubernatorial field in Michigan is about to learn that lesson the hard way.

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