FILE PHOTO: James Craig, a former Detroit Police Chief, arrives to announce he is a Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan in Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) Associated Press
FILE PHOTO: James Craig, a former Detroit Police Chief, arrives to announce he is a Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan in Detroit, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Republican frontrunners for Michigan governor might have forged signatures as a last-ditch effort to make the ballot.


Need to Know

  • Tudor Dixon, James Craig, and Perry Johnson all have signatures in question.
  • Republicans have pitched themselves as the election integrity party, but now are overrun with forgery accusations.
  • These accusations have come from both sides of the aisle.

UPDATE: The campaign of Republican gubernatorial frontrunner James Craig recently acknowledged potential signature fraud, but claims Craig is innocent and should still be on the ballot come August.

“Chief Craig in no way condones any act of the handful of circulators who may well have injured his campaign and interfered with the constitutional rights of voters who support him or other candidates,” wrote campaign attorney Edward Greim, in a May 9 letter to the Bureau of Elections, obtained by the Free Press. Greim added that “it is our belief that the petition remains valid.”

LANSING, Mich.—Alleged forgery and fraud could sideline the gubernatorial hopes of three leading Republicans, including former Detroit police chief James Craig, millionaire businessman Perry Johnson, and conservative TV host Tudor Dixon. 

In a 250-page complaint filed by the Michigan Democratic Party, lawyers claimed to identify apparent forgeries and fraud in the forms of identical handwriting, signatures from dead people, and duplicate signatures on petitions required to run for governor. The allegations have the potential to keep all three candidates who previously championed election integrity off the August Republican primary ballot.

“I have never seen such evidence of forgery and fraud in a petition drive in nearly 40 years of practicing election law in Michigan,” said election law attorney Mark Brewer, a former chairperson of the Michigan Democratic Party, in a statement.

The case found that petition circulators allegedly passed petitions amongst themselves signing for voters as they skimmed election rolls. Every signature, they switched off, in a tactic known as “round-robining.” Though all candidates are implicated in the scandal, the most blatant violations seemed to come from the Craig campaign, which is facing accusations from within the candidate’s own party as well.

To be placed on the primary ballot, each candidate needs 15,000 signatures from a variety of counties. Craig’s campaign submitted just over 21,000, and the challenge claims about 9,000 are illegitimate—the vast majority as the result of forgery. According to a spokesperson for Dixon’s campaign, Craig staffers submitted another 4,000 signatures minutes after the hard deadline—too late for consideration but in possible recognition of their folly. 

Craig, who has described himself as a campaign “neophyte” has deflected allegations, claiming they target him as a front-runner. Craig and Johnson were leading in polls conducted just a month ago, and Dixon’s name has been floated for a possible momentum-swinging endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Johnson declared at a campaign stop that “it’s very likely that Chief Craig will not be on the ballot,” the Michigan Democratic Party said. But Johnson’s camp used six of the eight petitioners that Craig did, according to Steven Liedel, an election attorney who filed an adjacent lawsuit.

Dixon wasn’t immune to claims of fraud either, but she submitted the most signatures by far, almost reaching the 30,000 maximum. Democrats pointed out that the heading on her filing stated her term as governor would expire in 2026, which technically is untrue. Her term would run until January 1, 2027, a semantical point that the filing attorneys say could void all signatures.

“If they make it onto the ballot, they start off under a cloud of incompetence,” said Jeff Timmer, a former Michigan Republican Party leader, on his podcast with Brewer called, “A Republic… If You Can Keep It.” 

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, filed 30,000 signatures, the maximum number, a month ago. She will be on the November ballot. 

All three Republican candidates had previously run on issues of election integrity, wrongly espousing either that the 2020 election was stolen or calling for further investigations.

“This is directly at the character of where these candidates are coming from,” Timmer said. “You have Craig, who is basing his campaign on law and order, being the police chief, and being able to run things—and he’s failed at every step. Perry Johnson, a self-funder who’s built his reputation as a ‘quality guru,’ clearly didn’t invoke any control when it came to his petitions.”