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Liberal group says GOP primary votes for Ryan Kelley should not be counted

headshot of Ryan Kelley wearing a suit
Ryan D. Kelley for Governor of Michigan

A progressive group is arguing the US Constitution bars a Michigan Republican candidate who was part of the January 6th uprising from holding the office of governor. The lawsuit says the “insurrectionist” clause of the 14th Amendment adopted during the post-Civil War Reconstruction period still applies today.

The lawsuit was filed Thursday in the Michigan Court of Claims. It says Ryan Kelley, a former Allendale Township planning commissioner, violated his oath to defend the Constitution when he played a role in the Capitol uprising.

“He is a clear and present danger to democracy,” it said.

The FBI, relying in part on video footage, says Kelley was part of the crowd that forced its way into the US Capitol on January 6th He pleaded not guilty after being charged in federal court with four misdemeanors.

”Anybody who engages in insurrection or rebellion against the United States is ineligible to serve in state and local office,” attorney Mark Brewer told Michigan Public Radio.

The “insurrection clause” of the 14th Amendment reads:

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Brewer, who is a former Michigan Democratic Party chair, says votes for Kelley in the August primary should not be counted. If Kelley is nominated, the lawsuit says the Secretary of State should refuse to put his name on the November ballot.

In a press release, Kelley called the lawsuit “laughable.”

Michigan Republican Party spokesman Gustavo Portela said the lawsuit is just an effort to interfere in the GOP primary. He said the party is weighing its options.

“Our focus is always going to be to defend our candidates and ensure that at the end of the day, there are fair elections and that we’re pushing back against any meddling from the Democratic Party, especially Mark Brewer,” he told Michigan Public Radio.

Kelley is one of five GOP candidates on the August 2 gubernatorial primary ballot. The winner will face Governor Gretchen Whitmer in November.

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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