Republican candidate Michael Brown on Tuesday dropped out of the race for the next Michigan governor after the state’s elections bureau announced that five GOP contenders failed to file enough valid nominating signatures, and should not qualify to run in the August primary.
Of the 10 Republican gubernatorial candidates hoping to appear on the ballot for the August primary, the Michigan Elections Bureau is recommending five be kept out of the running after thousands of petition signatures were found to be fraudulent across the five campaigns. The bureau said Monday, May 23, that Brown, James Craig, Perry Johnson, Donna Brandenburg and Michael Markey did not meet the 15,000 valid signature requirement to qualify.
The bureau’s announcement comes after the Michigan Democratic Party and super PAC tied to GOP candidate Tudor Dixon challenged the validity of signatures submitted by several Republican candidates and alleged mass forgery, though the bureau said Monday its investigation and findings are independent of those challenges. The Michigan State Board of Canvassers is expected to meet Thursday, when they will consider the bureau’s recommendations and ultimately decide who will appear on the August ballot.
On Tuesday, Brown announced his decision to withdraw from the race entirely, ahead of the board of canvassers’ final decision. In a statement posted to his campaign site, Brown claims those responsible for circulating his nominating petitions “jumped onto other campaigns and went on a money grab” after they were finished gathering signatures for his campaign.
The Michigan Democratic Party believes that a number of petition circulators who worked for more than one GOP candidate -- including Craig, Johnson and Dixon -- all forged thousands of signatures using a process called “round-robining.” Through this process, a small group of individuals take turns writing names, addresses and fake signatures on different lines on each petition sheet using a list of real voters.
The bureau says they found more than 11,000 of Craig’s signatures and over 9,000 of Johnson’s to be invalid, and more than 42,000 fraudulent signatures were tossed from the campaigns of Brown, Brandenburg and Markey. Craig and Johnson are two of the top GOP contenders for Michigan’s 2022 gubernatorial election.
The state elections bureau says it does not currently have reason to believe that “any specific candidates or campaigns were aware of the activities of fraudulent-petition circulators.”
“I cannot and will not be associated with this activity,” Brown wrote, in part, on Tuesday. “We built this campaign on common sense conservative principles with a positive message of prosperity, safety, and respect for all the citizens of Michigan ... I will exit the race for Michigan’s Governor with my integrity and this principle intact.”