The Michigan gubernatorial election was thrown into chaos Monday night when the state Bureau of Elections recommended barring two top Republicans, including former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, from running to replace Democrat Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The bureau charged that neither Craig nor businessman Perry Johnson submitted enough valid petition signatures and thousands of signatures they and others submitted were invalid. Craig, an African American who supported Second Amendment rights while fighting crime as Detroit’s top cop, is the GOP’s best-known candidate. Johnson is its best-funded. If the board’s ruling sticks, half of the 10 candidates seeking to run for governor wouldn’t make the ballot, The Detroit News reported.
“(T)he Bureau did not fully process the challenge because the number of signatures removed from the total after the review of fraudulent-petition circulators were such that Mr. Craig was already far below the minimum threshold for ballot access,” the bureau of Craig’s signatures.
State elections report: James Craig and Perry Johnson filed too few signatures for ballot https://t.co/9t5uBaJ2Gz
— Detroit Free Press (@freep) May 24, 2022
Three other GOP candidates financial adviser Michael Markey, Michigan State Police Capt. Michael Brown, and entrepreneur Donna Brandenburg, were also recommended for disqualification.
The bureau said petition circulators “submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures,” and said as many as 68,000 signatures were deemed invalid.
Craig, 65, is seen as the GOP frontrunner to take on Whitmer in November.
“I’m a fighter, always been a fighter,” Craig told Fox 2 after the report came out. “Michigan wants something different. I know, everyone else knows, I was the GOP candidate that would have upset the incumbent,” Craig told FOX 2 following the report from the bureau.
Johnson, 74, runs a quality control auditing company.
John Yob, a consultant for Johnson, told The Detroit News the bureau didn’t have the right to unilaterally void every single signature obtained by the alleged forgers.
“We strongly believe they are refusing to count thousands of signatures from legitimate voters who signed the petitions and look forward to winning this fight before the board, and if necessary, in the courts,” Yob said.
The Board of State Canvassers, which includes two Democrats and two Republicans, will consider the bureau’s findings on Thursday. It would take three to buck the bureau’s recommendation and keep one or more of the candidates on the ballot, according to the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.
Michigan Democrats challenged the candidates’ petitions, each of which was required to contain 15,000 valid signatures from registered voters. Craig’s campaign submitted about 21,000 petition signatures, but Democrats claimed to have uncovered thousands of forged signatures and other defects in his petition.