An appeals court in Michigan has found that two top Republican candidates seeking to unseat Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer are not eligible to run in their party’s primary.
The court upheld a decision to boot businessman Perry Johnson and former Detroit cop James Craig from the ballot over fraudulent signatures, Conservative Brief reported.
Two Republican candidates in Michigan can’t run
The state’s election bureau had knocked out half the GOP field in one fell swoop last week after finding that Johnson, Craig, and three other candidates had so many fraudulent petitions that they did not have the 15,000 valid signatures needed to qualify.
The bureau, which is run by the office of Democrat Jocelyn Benson, said they were “unaware of another election cycle” with so many fraudulent petitions, which allegedly came from paid petition circulators. A vote by the Board of State Canvassers on whether to let the candidates run tied along party lines.
The appeals court ruled that the state isn’t required to check the signatures line-by-line, as the disqualified candidates requested, seemingly precluding any chance that they will appear on the ballot on August 2 for the GOP primary.
The candidates have not been accused of any wrongdoing, and Johnson suggested that fraudsters waged a “Machiavellian” effort to sabotage his and other candidates’ campaigns.
State Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser also blasted the “unprecedented” way the state handled the matter and complained of “voter disenfranchisement.”
GOP looks to “fire Whitmer”
Craig had been seen as the primary’s frontrunner.
There are five candidates left, with the likely frontrunner being Tudor Dixon, a conservative commentator with the endorsement of Betsy DeVos and who has also gotten attention from Donald Trump.
Other candidates are Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor who became known for protesting Whitmer’s controversial coronavirus lockdown, Ryan Kelley, a real state agent and Trump supporter who was at Trump’s “Stop the Steal” rally on January 6th, 2021, businessman Kevin Rinke, and pastor Ralph Rebandt.
Despite the primary being thrown into chaos, Weiser said the GOP is confident they will find the right candidate to “fire Whitmer.”
“We need to let all legal challenges play out, but regardless of what happens, I’m confident that our GOP field is not only strong but will have a clear path to defeating Whitmer in the fall,” party chair Ron Weiser said.