Advance Notice: Briefs

Lawsuit filed to keep GOP gov. candidate off the Nov. ballot for ‘engaging in insurrection’

By: - July 14, 2022 3:33 pm

Michigan GOP gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley attends a right-wing rally at the state Capitol, Feb. 8, 2022 | Laina G. Stebbins

Updated with Kelley’s comments, 6:46 p.m., 7/14/22

Calling him “a clear and present danger to democracy in Michigan,” a lawsuit has been filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals seeking to prevent Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley from being on the general election ballot.

The suit, filed by Oakland County voter Lee Estes, cites federal charges brought against Kelley in connection to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection attempt and attack on the U.S. Capitol building. 

“This is an action to prevent Ryan Kelley from appearing on the November 8, 2022 general election ballot as a candidate for Governor because he has ‘engaged in insurrection’ in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and therefore is ineligible to serve as a candidate for Governor for the State of Michigan,” states the lawsuit. “He is a clear and present danger to democracy in Michigan.”

The liberal advocacy group Progress Michigan, which assisted with research and financial support for the suit, says the action is “potentially the first 14th amendment complaint in the country where the defendant has been indicted for their role in the January 6 insurrection.” 

“It’s simple, really. If you supported and participated in the January 6 insurrection, you should not have the privilege of holding – or even running – for public office,” said Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “Whether it’s Ryan Kelley or anyone else that was illegally at the Capitol trying to overturn the will of the people, there needs to be accountability.”

Kelley, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, was arrested June 9 during a raid by the FBI at his Allendale Township home.

Kelley traveled to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021, to take part in the protests that preceded the attack by former President Donald Trump supporters on the Capitol.

While Kelley has vigorously maintained he never entered the building, authorities allege he climbed through scaffolding for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration stage and then motioned for rioters to advance. 

Kelley is facing four counts: knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds on Jan. 6, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, knowingly engaging in any act of physical violence against person or property in any restricted building or grounds, and willfully injuring or committing any depredation against any property of the United States.

Kelley is one of five Republicans running in the Aug. 2 primary, along with businessman Kevin Rinke, right-wing media personality Tudor Dixon, chiropractor Garrett Soldano and the Rev. Ralph Rebandt. The winner will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.

In a lengthy news release, Kelley said the “claims of insurrection are laughable.”

“Yes, I am on the ballot Aug. 2,” Kelley said. “Yes, I will be on the ballot Nov. 8. Yes, we will defeat Gretchen Whitmer and return Michigan to freedom, liberty and prosperity.”

Although the suit seeks to keep Kelley off the November ballot, not the Aug. 2 GOP primary, Michigan Republican Party Chair Ron Weiser issued a statement claiming, “Democrats are at it again trying to meddle in our elections” and called it a “blatant attempt to shore up Gretchen Whitmer’s re-election chances to set her up to run for President after the disaster she’s been as Governor in Michigan.”

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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.