Michigan Election Chaos: GOP Frontrunner, 4 Others Are Barred From Ballot After Board Split
Former Detroit Police Chief and current Republican candidate for the 2022 Michigan governors race, James Craig speaks to the crowd during the WJLB Big Holiday Show at Little Caesars Arena on December 17, 2021 in Detroit, Michigan.
Scott Legato/WireImage

The Michigan Board of State Canvassers came to split decisions Thursday, meaning that five Michigan Republican gubernatorial candidates, including former Detroit police chief and GOP favorite James Craig, are ineligible to appear on the ballot.

The board, made up of two Republicans and two Democrats, made the decisions after the Michigan Bureau of Elections recommended barring five candidates from the ballot Monday night. After finding that the petition circulators assigned by the candidates submitted fraudulent signatures, the Bureau of Elections said the gubernatorial hopefuls fell short of the needed 15,000 signatures to appear on the ballot for the primary election in August.

“There’s nothing to suggest there are valid signatures,” Michigan Elections Director Jonathan Brater told the board in a hearing Thursday morning. “It’s not a place that anybody wants to be. It’s a terrible thing for our state, and it’s an attack on our election system.”

Craig responded to the decision barring him from ballot and promised to take the issue to court. “We will be filing an immediate appeal in the courts,” Craig said in a statement. “We are confident that when the law is justly applied, our campaign will be on the ballot this August.”

Along with Craig, businessman Perry Johnson, capital management CEO Donna Brandenburg, financial adviser Michael Markey, and Michigan State Police Captain Michael Brown will be barred from appearing on the ballot.

Brater testified that his team checked 7,000 out of 68,000 signatures that they suspected of being fraudulent, and found that none of them were legitimate, Bridge News reporter Jonathan Oosting tweeted. Based on this finding, Brater said his staff is “confident in saying these signatures should not be counted.”

Attorney George Lewis, who represents Craig, fought back, claiming the Bureau of Elections violated state law by not checking every single signature they suspected of being fraudulent. Lewis also said he has affidavits from 15 voters, who signed on suspected fraudulent petition sheets, claiming they legitimately signed their name.

After Craig’s attorney testified, Republican board member Tony Daunt said he believes the signatures are “probably fraudulent,” but asked if it would be possible to count every signature by June 3. “My gut tells me these are probably fraudulent … but I cannot base these important decisions on assumptions,” Daunt said.

Capital management CEO Donna Brandenburg, another GOP gubernatorial candidate, called the Bureau of Elections’ process “an arbitrary goat rodeo,” and her attorney argued that candidates did not get any notice of the alleged fraudulent signatures when the Bureau of Elections became aware of them in March. This coincides with GOP candidate Michael Brown’s team claiming it did not receive any notice of fraudulent signatures until after 8 p.m. ET on Monday.

“It’s a shame,” Brandenburg said. “It’s an assault against the American people on every level.”

The candidates are expected to take the case to court, which could result in a postponed primary election depending on the court’s decision. Republican Board of State Canvassers Chairman Norm Shinkle said the case could make its way up to the Michigan Supreme Court.

For now, the decision throws the Michigan GOP gubernatorial race into chaos as Craig dominated in recent polling, showing he was the clear favorite to challenge Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.

The remaining five candidates in the Republican race who will appear on the ballot for the August primary are radio host Tudor Dixon, chiropractor Garrett Soldano, Pastor Ralph Rebandt, businessman Kevin Rinke, and real estate broker Ryan Kelley.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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