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2 Republicans exhaust appeals, won’t be on ballot in Michigan governor’s race

Michigan Republican Perry Johnson speaks with reporters at a hotel.
Republican Perry Johnson speaks with reporters in February after kicking off his bid for Michigan governor. But he won’t be on the ballot after some of his qualifying petition signatures were deemed to be forged.
(David Eggert / Associated Press)
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Two candidates for Michigan governor, including a business consultant willing to spend personal millions, lost their final appeals Friday and will remain off the ballot in the Republican primary, the result of phony petition signatures that left them short of the 15,000 threshold.

The state Supreme Court was the last stop for Perry Johnson and Michael Markey, who were doomed by forged signatures apparently created by paid circulators without the candidates’ knowledge.

After state officials scratched those names, Johnson and Markey didn’t have enough valid ones.

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Detroit’s former police chief, James Craig, is in the same category. The Supreme Court rejected his appeal on narrow procedural grounds, saying he first needed to go to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Nonetheless, he too will likely stay off the Aug. 2 ballot.

“Today was the statutory deadline for ballots to be finalized. ... They are going to begin the printing process now,” said Tracy Wimmer, spokeswoman for the secretary of state.

A message seeking comment was left for Craig’s spokesman.

The state elections bureau described widespread evidence of fraudulent signatures, names of dead voters and wrong addresses in a May 23 report — a conclusion that rocked the crowded field of GOP candidates vying to challenge Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

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Five candidates said they were victims of dishonest petition circulators and deserved to be on the ballot. They also complained that the state declared thousands of suspicious signatures invalid although only a portion were actually compared to signatures in the voter registry.

The Board of State Canvassers last week tied, 2-2, on whether to put them on the ballot. A tie meant they were left off, and lawsuits followed.

“There is nothing here meriting our further time or attention,” Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said, adding that Johnson can’t show that the “Board of State Canvassers had a clear legal duty to certify his name to the ballot.”

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Justice Richard Bernstein, the lone dissenter, said the state Supreme Court at least should have heard arguments.

Johnson “raises serious concerns about ballot access and whether the current process implemented by the state appropriately balances real concerns about fraud against the possibility of disenfranchising both candidates and voters,” Bernstein said.

Johnson, who refers to himself as a business “quality guru,” began introducing himself to voters with Super Bowl ads and had pledged to spend some of his personal fortune.

There still will be five other candidates in the Republican primary: Tudor Dixon, Kevin Rinke, Garrett Soldano, Ralph Rebandt and Ryan Kelley.

Four of those five appeared at a debate Thursday on Mackinac Island. Dixon earlier in the day picked up an endorsement from Right to Life of Michigan, an antiabortion group influential in Republican politics.

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