Disqualified GOP gubernatorial candidates have options to get on the ballot

By: - June 17, 2022 11:15 am

Max Nesterak/States Newsroom

As four Republican gubernatorial hopefuls consider their options to try and remain in the race, one election expert has floated an alternative path available to them.

Following the disqualification of former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, businessman Perry Johnson, financial adviser Michael Markey and businesswoman Donna Brandenburg from the Aug. 2 primary ballot, each has sought various legal remedies to restore their candidacies. 

To date, none has succeeded, most recently with a federal judge denying Johnson’s last-ditch effort. Craig, meanwhile, has announced he’s started a write-in campaign.

The four were tossed off of the ballot after the Bureau of Elections (BOE) released a report last month detailing an “unprecedented” number of fraudulent signatures on their petitions.That ruling was then upheld when the Board of State Canvassers (BSC) deadlocked along party lines.

That leaves five candidates running for the GOP nomination: Ryan Kelley who was arrested last week on charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection; Garrett Soldano, a chiropractor; businessman Kevin Rinke; right-wing personality Tudor Dixon; and the Rev. Ralph Rebandt. The winner will take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Nov. 8.

Steven Liedel is a former counsel for Gov. Jennifer Granholm who’s now with the Lansing-based Dykema law firm in Lansing, specializing in election law. He’s noted that Michigan law does provide another path to getting one’s name on the ballot that does not require petition signatures.

Liedel, who represented Carol Bray of Haslett in her challenge to 6,000 of Perry’s signatures, says candidates could seek a nomination from one of the five minor political parties; U.S. Taxpayers Party of Michigan, Working Class Party, Libertarian Party of Michigan, Green Party of Michigan and the Natural Law Party.

“ZERO valid petition signatures required,” tweeted Liedel. “These parties select their nominees for governor at conventions held by August 2nd and simply notify the Secretary of State of their selections for placement on ballot.”

Liedel told the Michigan Advance that since these GOP candidates had issues getting valid petition signatures, mounting a write-in campaign like Craig is doing may not be the most efficient path to the ballot.

“What are their options if they’re not on the ballot as one of the candidates for the Republican nominations?” said Liedel. “A write-in to become the Republican nominee, if you get more write-in votes than one of the folks that appear on the ballot; go get … 12,000 valid signatures from voters [by July 21] and appear on the general election ballot as an independent candidate without party affiliation; or much like Gary Johnson did, seek the nomination of one of the other political parties.”

Gary Johnson was a former Republican governor of New Mexico who became the Libertarian Party nominee for president of the United States in 2012 and again in 2016.

Susan J. Demas

“They’ve all said that they’re interested in being governor and they have ideas that they think should be advanced,” said Liedel. “And so those are the three paths that they have at this point.”

Liedel said that of those three options, seeking a minor party nomination presents the fewest technical obstacles, especially considering that a run for an independent spot on the ballot requires 12,000 valid signatures, just 3,000 less than they needed to get on the ballot as a major-party candidate.

“If past performance is an indicator of future results, they might have trouble qualifying with the lower 12,000 signature requirements that are applicable to an independent candidate in terms of securing the nomination of another party,” he said.

Messages seeking comment were sent to the Johnson, Craig, Markey and Brandenberg campaigns, but were not returned.

He acknowledged that the candidates themselves may have no interest in affiliating themselves with another party, and that the parties themselves would have to be interested in having one of them as their standard bearer on a ballot in November.

“It’s not something that they can control on their own,” Liedel said. “You’d have to have a willing party willing to nominate you, and you have to be willing to be affiliated with that party.”

However, he said if those ideological differences could be overcome, their names would be on the ballot for their supporters, while the minor parties would receive wider recognition.

“Those minor party candidates are at least interested in continuing their minor party status, which means they have to get a certain percentage of the vote in the race for governor to qualify for the next election cycle,” said Liedel. “So the parties could have an interest in at least maintaining their minor party status and potentially achieving major party status.”

Regardless of whether any of the disqualified candidates have a desire to seek such a nomination, Liedel says it remains an option that contradicts the claims being made in some of the court challenges.

“I think that several of them, and Mr. [Perry] Johnson in particular, were arguing in court that there was no alternative for them to seek the office and no other mechanism for folks that wanted to support them, claiming somehow that they were being disenfranchised,” said Liedel. “And, you know, that definitely was not the case.”

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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.