LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Democratic Party said Wednesday it challenged three Republican gubernatorial candidates’ nominating petitions, alleging forged signatures and other issues that could keep them from qualifying for the GOP primary.
Complaints were lodged Tuesday with the Board of State Canvassers over petitions submitted by ex-Detroit Police Chief James Craig, businessman Perry Johnson and Tudor Dixon, the former host of a conservative TV news show. A super PAC tied to Dixon filed a separate challenge against Craig, who faces the most serious allegations and is among 10 Republicans who turned in signatures by last week’s deadline.
The Democratic-drafted complaint alleges that at least eight of Craig’s circulators engaged in a forging technique known as "round-robining" — when a small group of people signs names and addresses in turn, one per sheet, using a voter list. More than 6,900 of his 21,000-plus signatures were obtained that way and should be invalidated, according to the filing.
If true, that would put Craig below the 15,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the August primary ballot. The challenge also says defective circulator certificates should negate about 1,900 signatures.
"Michigan statewide elections have never seen a set of petitions as flawed as those of James Craig," attorney Mark Brewer wrote in the challenge.
Craig spokesperson Marli Blackman said Tuesday that his campaign had "total confidence" in the signatures after being asked about the challenge from Michigan Strong, the political action committee supporting Dixon.
Michigan Strong spokesperson Fred Wszolek said it was "super easy" to catch the alleged fraud, saying sheets from one circulator, for instance, all have handwriting that looks alike and were submitted in sequential order. Craig’s campaign tried filing an additional 4,200 signatures on April 19 but was 20 minutes late, he said.
The complaint against Dixon said her almost 30,000 signatures should be tossed because the petitions inaccurately say the next gubernatorial term ends in 2026 when it expires Jan. 1, 2027.
The challenge to Johnson also alleges forgery, noting his campaign used six circulators accused of forging Craig’s petitions. They appear to have gathered fewer signatures for Johnson.
The candidates could not immediately be reached for comment before business hours Wednesday.