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5 GOP candidates booted from ballot; court challenges coming

Screenshot of the Board of State Canvassers meeting from Zoom, the members sit across a desk with audience members in chairs. A lower-third reads: Board of State Canvassers, Boji Tower-Lansing. With the date and time to the right
Michigan Department of State

Five Republicans have been booted from the state’s August gubernatorial primary, and five Republicans are still on the ballot.

That’s after a state board deadlocked Thursday on the question of whether certain candidates qualified despite thousands of forged and otherwise invalid petition signatures.

It takes approval of a bipartisan majority on the four-person Board of State Canvassers for candidates to qualify. While everyone on the board agreed the situation is unprecedented, they disagreed on the remedy.

Democrats said it’s up to candidates to make sure their petitions are in order and signature collectors have abided by the rules as well as that a well-run petition operation serves as a basic qualification round for a campaign. Republican board member Tony Daunt said the candidates are the victims and should be allowed to appear on the ballot.

“Without question, a widespread and disgraceful effort to defraud the voters of the state has occurred,” he said. “Those who engaged in this effort deserve the full weight of the law to come down on them.”

Democratic board member Mary Ellen Gurewitz, a long-time elections lawyer, said she understands the candidates may feel like victims.

"Which is hard to stomach, quite frankly. It’s their obligation to check these signatures," she said.

Michigan State Police Captain Mike Brown is among those disqualified. He announced earlier this week he had dropped out even if a future court ruling allows him on the ballot. James Craig, Perry Johnson, Donna Brandenburg and Michael Markey were also disqualified.

Craig, the former Detroit Police Chief and an early favorite of many party insiders including Michigan GOP Chair Ron Weiser and former Governor John Engler, said he will sue to get his name on the ballot. Other candidates could do the same. They will decide whether to file with the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Court of Claims or ask for their case to go directly to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Republicans who will appear on the ballot are Tudor Dixon, Garrett Soldano, Kevin Rinke, Ryan Kelley and Ralph Rebandt. The winner will face Governor Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat running for a second term.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.
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