- The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday rejected the appeals of three GOP candidates seeking to appear on the ballot.
- The candidates — who were all running for governor — were disqualified due to forged petition signatures.
- The affected Republicans could potentially mount write-in campaigns for the August 2 primary.
The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday rejected the appeals of multiple GOP gubernatorial candidates to appear on the August primary ballot, the result of state election officials declaring that the individual campaigns turned in forged petition signatures.
The candidates who will remain off the ballot include former Detroit police chief James Craig — who for months had been seen as a frontrunner in the race — along with businessmen Perry Johnson and Michael Markey Jr.
The judges — who ruled 6-1 in all three cases — stated that they were “not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed” by the court.
State election officials found that the Republican candidates lacked the necessary amount of signatures for qualifying for the primary ballot with the discovery of thousands of invalid signatures. However, the officials also said that there was no proof that the disqualified candidates knew of the sweeping problems surrounding the signatures that were submitted.
Before the appeals, the elections panel last month deadlocked 2-2 on permitting the five candidates to appear on the ballot, according to The Detroit Free Press. Due to the failure of the panel to produce a majority decision, the five candidates were not allowed on the ballot.
When filing their initial paperwork, the gubernatorial candidates were required to submit a minimum of 15,000 signatures and were instructed not to exceed 30,000 signatures.
The Republican candidates — who have largely criticized the process as one dictated by politics — could potentially mount write-in campaigns, but it remains unclear how most of them will proceed. Two additional candidates were also disqualified from the ballot: businesswoman Donna Brandenburg and Michigan State Police Capt. Mike Brown, who withdrew from the race.
In total, five Republicans were not allowed on the ballot due to forged signatures.
The GOP candidates who will appear on the ballot include businesswoman Tudor Dixon; pastor Ralph Rebandt; real estate broker Ryan Kelley; businessman Kevin Rinke; and chiropractor Garrett Soldano.
The decision puts the party in a difficult position; it had viewed the Michigan governor’s race as a highly competitive race in a key Midwestern state that backed former President Donald Trump in 2016 before flipping to President Joe Biden in 2020.
Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is running for a second term, and the lack of a top-tier candidate on the ballot has muddled GOP chances of winning in the fall, despite the favorable political climate that Republicans are expected to enjoy.
Republicans have spent much of the last two years attacking Whitmer over the impact of her coronavirus restrictions in the state, but she is currently in a solid position among the state’s voters headed into the November contest.
In a May survey conducted by Target Insyght of Lansing, Whitmer led all potential GOP opponents by double-digit margins and was well above the 50-percent threshold in every matchup.
However, according to Ed Sarpolus, the executive director of Target Insyght, Republicans could easily come back into the fold and revert the race back to the close contest predicted by most observers.
“It would be wrong of me as a pollster to say Gretchen is doing a great job right now, she’s going to win re-election,” he told Deadline Detroit. “No, this poll shows Republicans being upset. Despite Republicans leaning Gretchen, or undecided, they still give Gretchen a negative job rating.”
The primary will be held on August 2.