(Source: MIRS.news, Published 05/18/2022) As of Wednesday, 23 state-level legislative and judicial candidates have been disqualified from the August 2022 candidate list by the Secretary of State, more than any other cycle in at least 24 years.
The development comes after the Bureau of Elections Wednesday dropped 15 new candidates off the ballot due to affidavit of identity issues, specifically not straightening out their campaign finance affairs before officially filing for office.
The previous high for candidate disqualifications was in 2018, when 18 candidates were removed. Back then, 12 were Democratic candidates, three were Republican and three were judicial candidates.
Before the 2022 list was added to the roster, the average number of August disqualifications since 1998 was 7.5. Also from August 1998 to August 2020, Republicans made up 17 of the 90 disqualifications.
Now for the August 2022 list, there are – so far -- six disqualified Democratic candidates, 14 disqualified Republican candidates and three judicial candidates booted off the ballot. See all of the numbers in a spreadsheet here.
Out of the 15 new candidates who were recently deemed ineligible for the August 2022 ballot, 11 were struck down because some "paid fines after signing their affidavit of identity, or subsequently paid their fines, then withdrew their affidavits of identity and filed new affidavits of identity."
With the numbers this high, several face a dilemma: Do they count their losses or lawyer up?
"There's one lawyer I would hire, and I know he's busy on the 26th," said Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum, referencing the May 26 Michigan Board of Canvassers meeting where the board will be reviewing 28 nomination petition challenges, including those made against three major gubernatorial candidates.
Byrum said the number of lawyers that specialize in election law and campaign finance law is limited in the state of Michigan. However, she also underscored that this year's uptick in disqualified candidates is not a historic moment in how elections are operated in Michigan.
"I think it's a historic moment for individuals who think they qualify as a candidate and its historic in that they're signing false affidavits and aren't thinking twice about (it)," Byrum said. "I think that's the issue. It's not how many had been disqualified from the ballot, it's how many signed false affidavits and thought they were going to get away with it."
When MIRS asked Tracy Wimmer – the director of media relations for Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson – if the 23-number was significant or record-breaking by any means, Wimmer said: "We do not have a direct basis to compare to past election cycles" due to redistricting and changes to filing officials for different races.
"A large number of candidates filing for office may have contributed to the number of disqualifications," Wimmer informed MIRS via email. In 2022, 952 candidates filed for governor, the legislature or judge with now 847 still remaining on the ballot. In 2014, that number was 935 with 889 remaining on the ballot after the disqualifications.
Two candidates that stood out when the disqualification list was distributed were incumbent Democratic Sen. Betty Jean Alexander (D-Detroit) and "Trump Won" conservative Mellissa CARONE, who obtained national attention when she testified against the November 2020 election results with former President Donald Trump's previous personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
One could say Alexander and Carone are parallel to one another. Alexander – who's been nicknamed "Grassroots Betty" – was recruited by Detroit progressive Democrats to deliver the perspective of a single mother and non-elite to the Legislature.
Carone, on the other hand, represents the new wave of conservatives who say they believe Trump won the 2020 General Election and are dead-set on purging Lansing of Republicans-In-Name-Only (RINOs).
In this case, they both find themselves in a similar situation. They both feel the Secretary of State did a disservice, with Carone telling MIRS that Alexander's disqualification "is sad."
Beforehand, Carone was running for the Macomb County-based 60th state House district, but had signed an affidavit while still owing a $50 late filing fee for the 2021 July Quarterly report and a $75 late filing fee for a 2021 October Quarterly report.
She also needed to submit an amendment to her 2021 October Quarterly report, an original 2022 Annual Statement and late filing fees related to her 2022 Annual Statement.
According to Carone, Macomb County staffers suggested she go through with signing the affidavit because it would likely not be issued to the state's Bureau of Elections until the end of the week, leaving her with some wiggle room to fix the campaign finance flaws.
"I decided to file for the state Senate, (but) I wanted to make sure everything was totally legal, right? Because of what happened to my state House seat. I went into the Bureau of Elections in Lansing and I sat down with them, and I had them help me," Carone told MIRS. "I literally made it very, very clear to them that I'm not going to file if there's any chance that I could be disqualified."
Carone was later disqualified again for the 11th Senate district – going from Eastpointe and upward across Macomb County – due to the affidavit she had signed for the House race she was previously going to run in.
She said her attorney is going to take care of it.
Meanwhile, Alexander's Chief of Staff, Lamar Lemmons Jr. – a former representative in the state House – is scrambling to find a campaign finance lawyer capable of helping the Senator.
He said several attorneys have told them they were conflicted out "because either they were representing someone who has a different issue or they were challenging from a different perspective than ours."
"The Senator filed as recommended by leadership within the caucus in February, and when we went to the Secretary of State's office we did make an inquiry as to if we had any outstanding issues," Lemmons told MIRS. "We found that we did not have any issues, so she filed. Later in February, we got notification that there was an issue of $50 to which we paid."
Lemmons also claimed that leadership within Michigan's Democratic caucus referred them to someone they ended up hiring to keep their campaign finances in order.
When asked if Alexander would consider running in the 6th Senate district – featuring Redford, Livonia and a part of Detroit – as a write-in candidate, Lemmons said: "We don't have a sugar daddy like Dan Gilbert willing to bankroll a massive operation for our campaign."
He was referencing when Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan ran as a write-in candidate in August 2013, garnering 53% of the vote after a judge ruled he hadn't lived in the city of Detroit long enough to be eligible for an official spot on the ballot.
Gilbert, the co-founder of Quicken Loans, contributed $34,000 through the Quicken PAC when Duggan ran in the historical mayoral campaign, where he won his first term as a write-in.
Rocha Still Running For House Like Nothing Is Going On
State House candidate Jon Rocha, who Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson kicked off the ballot Tuesday, told supporters he was launching a “fun day of door knocking and lunch” starting 10 a.m. Saturday. Acting as if nothing unusual was going on with his campaign, Rocha said “knocking doors is actually really fun, very easy, and you will meet many cool Patriots.”
“Together we will take back our state from the extremists who have hijacked it, and we will restore liberty, prosperity and parental control in Michigan,” Rocha said.