James Craig, Perry Johnson among 5 Michigan GOP governor candidates found ineligible by board

Two of the leading candidates for the GOP nomination for Michigan governor were found ineligible Thursday for the August primary, prompting a likely court challenge and reshaping the race to take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the battleground state this fall.

Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, who has led in most primary polls, and businessman Perry Johnson, along with three other lesser-known candidates, did not qualify for the ballot. The bipartisan Board of State Canvassers, voted Thursday that they be disqualified, following a recommendation from the state elections bureau, which said Monday it found thousands of forged or fraudulent signatures on petitions the candidates submitted.

The board split evenly on partisan lines, with two Democrats saying they should not make the ballot and two Republicans saying they should. Candidates needed three votes in support to make the ballot.

Democrats challenged the GOP candidates’ petitions, alleging mass forgery and other issues. Another Republican candidate, Tudor Dixon, had also contested Craig’s voter signatures as fake. The bureau, which is part of Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson’s department, said it discovered the fraud in its own review and didn’t process the challenges filed by the Michigan Democratic Party and Dixon.

Along with Craig and Perry, the other Republican candidates found ineligible include financial adviser Michael Markey, Michigan State Police commander Michael Brown and businesswoman Donna Brandenburg.