Lawyers with the Michigan Democratic Party filed challenges Tuesday against the petitions submitted by Republican gubernatorial candidates James Craig, Tudor Dixon and Perry Johnson.
Attorneys Mark Brewer and Steven Liedel said if the Bureau of Elections found that the number of signatures was fraudulent that they should be thrown off the August primary ballot. They are accusing all three candidates of an illegal “round robin” signing, where a small group of people sign names off a registered voters list.
“I have never seen such evidence of forgery and fraud in a petition drive in nearly 40 years of practicing election law in Michigan,” Brewer said.
“It’s clear the fix is in by Democrats to try and prevent our candidates from qualifying for the ballot against Gretchen Whitmer, and it’s their most desperate move yet to take away choice from working Michiganders struggling to make ends meet thanks to Democrats,” said MIGOP Communications Director Gustavo Portela.
Brewer said in a press conference there were eight petitioners who forged nearly 7,000 signatures from the Craig campaign and Liedel said six petitioners forged many from the Johnson campaign. They said they have proof through several affidavits claiming the signature was not done by the person. They also claim there were 66 dead voters on Craig’s petitions and 30 on Johnson’s.
“The Bureau of Elections and the Board of Canvassers should conduct a thorough examination to ensure they possess the integrity to stand up against Michigan election law,” said Michigan Democratic Party Chair Lavora Barnes.
One of the affidavits Liedel mentioned was from Betsey Hage, who serves as chief of administration for the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office.
Liedel said the Dixon signatures should be disqualified in full because of an error on the petition signing sheet that has the term of the governor expiring in 2026, not 2027.
“Candidates have been knocked off the ballot in the past for violations of items within their headings,” Liedel said.
The Dixon campaign turned in 29,500 signatures and said the idea that all her signatures should be disqualified because of the error makes the Democrats “desperate” and is doomed to fail.
“They will do anything to protect Gov. Whitmer from having to face me,” Dixon said.
Liedel compared the Dixon error to Matt Morgan, who was kicked off the Democratic ballot because his petitions listed his home address as a P.O. box number.
Brewer represented Morgan in the lawsuits to try to get him on the ballot.
John Yob, the campaign manager for Johnson, said the number of signatures that could be discounted still wouldn’t disqualify him for the August primary.
“Democrats are clearly scared of Perry Johnson’s momentum,” Yob said. “Perry will be on the ballot and we look forward to seeing the results of the more statistically consequential challenges made of other candidates."
Johnson was in West Michigan today where he visited Marlena’s Bistro, a restaurant at the center of the COVID-19 lockdown controversy.
A super political action committee backing Dixon also filed a challenge against Craig Tuesday.
Brewer said the Craig campaign had the largest indication of forged signatures.
“This is not my first encounter with the James Gang of Eight,” he said. “I’ve seen their work before and I’ve suspected forgery.”
He said he and Liedel were not able to track down which circulation company the “Gang of Eight” had come from but said they should be held accountable along with the company and the Craig campaign.
"We have total confidence in the signatures we submitted, and we look forward to defeating Gov. Whitmer this fall," Craig told the Detroit News in response to a question about the Michigan Strong challenge from earlier Tuesday.
28 Challenges Filed With The Bureau Of Elections
Along with the three Republican gubernatorial candidates there were 25 other challenges filed Tuesday.
There were six U.S. House district hopeful nominees who had their signature petitions challenged.
Sen. Tom Barrett (R-Charlotte), a Republican running for the 7th District; Carl Marlinga, a Democrat running for the 10th District; Shanelle Jackson, a Democrat running for the 12th District; Paul Junge, a Republican running for the 8th District; Jake Hagg, a Republican running for the 7th District; and Gabriella Manolache, a Republican running for the 3rd District were among the petitions challenged.
Many of the other challenges were made against the nonpartisan judges running for state circuit and district court.
The Bureau of Elections is reviewing the challenges and will make a determination in the coming weeks.