The first Republican primary debate of the campaign season is Thursday night in Howell, but the leader, in just about every poll, will not be there.
Former Detroit Police Chief James Craig says he has a prior engagement but this also comes as his campaign is under fire for allegations of fraudulent ballot petition signatures. Enough of them where he may not even make the primary ballot.
A possible disqualification would shake up the election before summer begins.
“It’s your responsibility as a candidate to make sure that you turn in 15,000 valid signatures,” said Adrian Hemond of Grassroots Midwest.
Craig turned in 21,000 signatures to file for the GOP primary ballot. Two separate challenges were posted against his petitions, saying thousands of signatures are invalid.
“If he comes up short of those 15,000 signatures, then he will not be on the ballot in August,” said Hemond.
The State Board of Elections are reviewing every signature and the Board of Canvassers will make the final ruling later this month
“They’re really going to be reviewing a bunch of different factors to make sure that they are real people, they are registered voters in Michigan and that they actually signed the petition,” said Hemond, “And not somebody else doing it surreptitiously or fraudulently as though they were them.”
Craig’s campaign all but acknowledges there is fraud among their signatures but say they were targeted by bad actors.
“We are confident the process will show we’ve met the requirements to be on the ballot and this was a malicious, coordinated attack on Chief Craig because both Democrats and Republican opponents are scared that he is already leading the race. We are full steam ahead,” the campaign said in a statement to 9&10 News.
Whether the signatures were invalid due to fraud or innocent mistakes, it doesn’t matter when it comes to the election. The polling leader would be off the ballot.
“It completely changes the dynamics of the race and it’s not clear where all of those voters will flow,” said Hemond.
Complicating it further are similar allegations made against Perry Johnson and the possibility of false information on Tudor Dixon’s petitions. Both could also be removed from the ballot.
Candidates can still run without ballot access but for a race this size, their chances are slim to none.
“Running a write-in campaign state wide,” said Hemond, “Is indeed a fool’s errand.”