Advance Notice: Briefs

Federal judge tosses GOP gov. candidate Johnson’s longshot bid to stay on ballot

By: - June 13, 2022 1:18 pm

Republican gubernatorial candidate Perry Johnson holds a campaign kick-off event in Lansing on Feb. 23, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Another GOP gubernatorial hopeful has reached the end of the line, with a federal judge on Monday denying businessman Perry Johnson’s last-ditch court effort to stay on the Aug. 2 primary ballot.

Johnson, a self-proclaimed “quality guru,” had filed suit Tuesday in the hopes of compelling the U.S. District Court for Michigan’s Eastern District to immediately halt the printing of primary ballots.

In a 15-page opinion released Monday, Judge Mark A. Goldsmith denied this request.

Johnson and four other Republican candidates for governor were tossed off of the ballot last month after the Bureau of Elections (BOE) reported an “unprecedented” number of fraudulent signatures. The Board of State Canvassers (BSC) then deadlocked along party lines on certifying those candidates for the ballot, effectively rendering them ineligible and prompting several of the candidates to turn to the courts.

Johnson’s latest court effort saw him file suit against the BSC, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Michigan Bureau of Elections Director Jonathan Brater. He had argued that the BOE did not adequately assess the validity of the signatures submitted by his campaign, “changed the rules after the game” and adopted “arbitrary and contradictory” procedures.

Responding to these claims, Goldsmith wrote: “These accusations mischaracterize the deliberate and objective methodology employed by the state agency tasked with enforcing election laws.

“… Contrary to Johnson’s charge that the BOE was invalidating signatures ‘without any review whatsoever,’ the BOE reviewed all signatures submitted by fraudulent-petition circulators under the supervision of staff experienced in signature review, and then it engaged in the more intensive process of double-checking thousands of these signatures against the QVF [Qualified Voter File].

“The state judicial system determined that this process complied with state law. This Court sees nothing arbitrary or capricious about the BOE’s able handling of a dire and time-sensitive threat to election integrity,” Goldmith added.

After losing lawsuits at the state level, Johnson and former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, financial adviser Michael Markey and businesswoman Donna Brandenburg had all appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn those rulings and put them on the Aug. 2 ballot. The court eventually ruled against all four of the gubernatorial candidates in a 6-1 majority opinion.

Unlike Craig, who has signaled that he intends to run as a write-in candidate, Johnson has made clear that he believes “you have to get on the ballot” as a Republican to win the governorship.

“That’s why I filed in court,” Johnson said Thursday during an appearance on “Let It Rip” on WJBK-TV.

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Laina G. Stebbins
Laina G. Stebbins

Laina G. Stebbins covers the environment, Native issues and criminal justice for the Advance. A lifelong Michigander, she is a graduate of Michigan State University’s School of Journalism, where she served as Founding Editor of The Tab Michigan State and as a reporter for the Capital News Service.