And then there were five.
The State Board of Canvassers cut the Republican gubernatorial primary field in half. The decision comes after the Board of Elections recommended the five be left off due to invalid signatures.
The campaigns of James Craig, Perry Johnson, Michael Markey, Michael Brown and Donna Brandenburg had so many petitions with forged signatures that the candidates did not meet the 15,000 signature threshold to make the ballot.
The 10-candidate Republican primary for the governor’s race was the largest field they’ve ever had in state history. Thursday the campaigns made their case.
“They let this go for for almost two months,” said Brandenburg, “And all the sudden ambushed all of us.”
Of the five candidates now removed from the primary ballot, only two showed to the board of canvassers meeting to defend their case. Brandenburg said she had no reason to believe she was in trouble, until this week.
“They knew that they were fraudulent circulators out there in March,” said Brandenburg, “Why didn’t they let anybody know? I was never challenged. I was never notified. I found out about it from the press.”
Markey’s biggest issue was the method. The Board of Elections did not check every single signature but targeted certain ones randomly and did that to more than 10% of the total count.
“Targeted means you didn’t go line-by-line,” said Markey, “There’s supposed to be the assumption of validity, not the assumption of invalidity. That’s how it always been and they violated it.”
Ultimately the four person board split the vote on party lines.
“I am troubled by assumptions,” said Tony Daunt, a Republican member, “Like in a trial, you can assume certain things but we need to err on the side of citizens’ rights.”
A tie means the candidates are off. Lawsuits and appeals have been promised but the ballots begin to be printed on June 3rd.
“We’ll file a lawsuit,” said Markey, “This was not the route I wanted to take.”
“I will fight things on principle,” said Brandenburg.
On top of those lawsuits, there will most likely be criminal charges, charges against the 36 signature collectors who were identified and accused of forging signatures.