Lansing, MI – Two of the top GOP candidates for Michigan governor, including former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, may have been knocked out of the running after a company hired to gather signatures to put them on the ballot submitted fraudulent petition sheets.
The Michigan Bureau of Elections announced on Monday that five of the 10 Republican candidates who had filed to run for governor had submitted insufficient signatures to be added to the primary ballot, The Detroit News reported.
Businessman Perry Johnson, financial adviser Michael Markey, Michigan State Police Captain Michael Brown, and entrepreneur Donna Brandenburg were also disqualified by the election board’s May 23 ruling.
The bureau of elections said in a staff report that it had tracked 36 petition circulators “who submitted fraudulent petition sheets consisting entirely of invalid signatures,” The Detroit News reported.
Once the fraudulent signature collectors were identified, the bureau refused to accept signatures from any of the petitions that were submitted by those people.
It was the worst case of election fraud the state has seen, according to the bureau of elections.
The staff report said the bureau was “unaware of another election cycle in which this many circulators submitted such a substantial volume of fraudulent petition sheets consisting of invalid signatures,” according to The Detroit News.
“In total, the bureau estimates that these circulators submitted at least 68,000 invalid signatures submitted across 10 sets of nominating petitions,” the report read. “In several instances, the number of invalid signatures submitted by these circulators was the reason a candidate had an insufficient number of valid signatures.”
The report found that former Chief Craig’s campaign turned in 11,113 invalid signatures, 9,879 of which were submitted by the “fraudulent petition circulators,” The Detroit News reported.
The bureau of elections determined that only 10,192 of the 21,305 signatures Craig submitted were “facially valid,” which left the former police chief 15,000 signatures short of the requirement to run on the primary ballot in August.
Craig has been considered the frontrunner with the best chance of unseating controversial Democratic Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, The Detroit News reported.
Johnson’s campaign released a statement that said Bureau of Elections didn’t have the right to unilaterally void every single signature that was gotten by the alleged forgers who victimized five candidates’ campaigns.
“We strongly believe they are refusing to count thousands of signatures from legitimate voters who signed the petitions and look forward to winning this fight before the board, and if necessary, in the courts,” campaign consultant John Yob said.
The report by the bureau of elections goes before the Board of State Canvassers on Thursday in Lansing and that panel will consider the report’s findings, The Detroit News reported.
The board could take the bureau of elections’ recommendations or go another way.
The Michigan Secretary of State’s office said it takes the support of three of four board members to put a candidate on the ballot against the bureau of elections’ recommendations, The Detroit News reported.
Anti-police activists have fought the former police chief’s candidacy from the beginning.
Protesters surrounded James and screamed at him when he announced he was running for governor in September of 2021.
They also held up signs at his campaign announcement that read “No Craig” and called the black, Republican former police chief a racist, and accused him of aiding “Nazis,” The Detroit News reported.
The chaotic brouhaha was so bad that Craig’s campaign team cut the announcement short when it was clear the candidate couldn’t be heard over the shouting protesters, WXYZ reported.
Chief Craig retired from the Detroit Police Department on June 1 after eight years as the city’s top cop amid speculation that he planned to challenge Whitmer.
He called his retirement “bittersweet” after 44 years in law enforcement, WDIV reported.
Craig is a Detroit native who started his law enforcement career with the Detroit Police Department in 1977.
He left the department because of staffing cuts and join the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) where he rose to the rank of captain and retired after 28 years.
Edward Greim, an attorney for James, said he found the allegations of falsified petitions “troubling” but said it wouldn’t keep the former police chief off the primary ballot in August, The Detroit News reported.
“Despite the potential efforts of a group of circulators to defraud the campaign, it is our belief that the petition remains valid,” Greim wrote. “That is because most of the technical challenges fail, and a signature comparison will likely show that the circulators did not write in a sufficient number of false signatures to erase the comfortable cushion of supporters amassed by the campaign.”