ICYMI: With Exactly 50 Days to Go Until Primary Day, Republican Race for Governor Remains in “Pure Chaos”

With exactly 50 days until the Republican gubernatorial primary – and just ten days until Michiganders can begin casting ballots –  the Republican race remains in a state of “pure chaos,” according to a recent report by Bridge Michigan.

While the primary seemed to hit rock bottom with the elimination of half the field at the end of May, the race continued to spiral out of control as former frontrunners James Craig and Perry Johnson attempted to fight their way back to relevancy after submitting nominating petitions rife with fraud and forgery. To that end, Johnson is still in federal court seeking to push back the entire election schedule just for him, while Craig officially announced during an unhinged interview he’d be seeking the governor’s office via a far-fetched write-in campaign.

Late last week, one of the five remaining candidates, Ryan Kelley, overshadowed the rest of the field and dominated headlines after the FBI appeared at his door and arrested him on criminal charges for participating in the violent insurrection on January 6th, 2021 that resulted in five deaths and 140 injured law enforcement officers.

See excerpts below on the once again “upended” Republican primary “already rocked by a signature forgery scandal” and read the full report here.

Bridge Michigan: ‘Pure Chaos’ in Michigan as FBI Arrest, Forgeries Rock GOP Governor Primary

By Jonathan Oosting

Already rocked by a signature forgery scandal, Michigan’s Republican gubernatorial primary was upended again this week by the arrest of candidate Ryan Kelley, the promise of a write-in campaign by James Craig and new conspiracy claims about the upcoming election. 

It’s “pure chaos,” said Andrea Bitely, a Lansing-based strategist who worked for former Attorney General Bill Schuette, the GOP’s 2018 gubernatorial nominee.

Kelley, accused of four misdemeanor crimes stemming from a U.S. Capitol riot over the 2020 presidential election, on Friday described his arrest as a “political witch hunt” and alleged Democrats have “weaponized the FBI against me” to manipulate the 2022 contest. 

Craig, one of five candidates recently booted from the ballot over forged signatures, announced Thursday night that he would run a write-in campaign for the GOP gubernatorial nomination. And Perry Johnson, alleging Democrats rigged the process, vowed to continue fighting in court. […]

Top-ranking Republicans rallied to Kelley’s defense and questioned the timing of his arrest Thursday morning, less than 12 hours before a prime-time Congressional hearing over the events on and leading up to Jan. 6, 2021, when supporters of former President Donald Trump tried to stop Congress from certifying his election loss. […]

Court records undermine that narrative, however, showing the FBI began looking into Kelley in early 2021, after then-U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider – a  Republican and Trump appointee – vowed an investigation, saying he “swore an oath to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump.” […]

Federal authorities say video footage shows that Kelley climbed scaffolding outside the Capitol and assisted another rioter who pulled down a metal barricade, among other things. He’s charged with four misdemeanors, including disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and was released on bond.

In a Friday morning interview on WOOD radio, Kelley declined to discuss specifics of his case or his actions on Jan. 6. But he called his arrest political “theater” and urged supporters to “stand with (him) against this oppression.”

If convicted, Kelley faces up to a year behind bars on each charge. But in the GOP primary, his “stock just went up,” said Bitely, a Lansing-based GOP strategist. 

“He now has the most name ID of the remaining candidates on the ballot,” Bitely said, suggesting the arrest could endear Kelley to Trump, who has not yet endorsed in the gubernatorial race. “He’s going to become very famous across the MAGA internet.” […]

Craig, the former Detroit police chief, had led all polls of the Michigan GOP primary field before he was disqualified late last month for submitting forged signatures from paid circulators now under criminal investigation. 

The Michigan Supreme Court – including Republican appointees – rejected lawsuits from Craig and other disqualified candidates, but “I am not giving up,” he said Thursday night, announcing he will run a write-in campaign for the GOP nomination. 

“I am the best candidate to unseat Gov. Whitmer,” Craig said in a Fox 2 interview, arguing petition circulators “robbed” him of the nomination.

“It’s not just Democrats” who wanted him off the ballot, Craig added, repeatedly pointing out that his signatures were first challenged by a super PAC supporting Dixon, the businesswoman and conservative media personality who is backed by DeVos and Right to Life of Michigan. 

It will be nearly “impossible” for Craig to win a write-in campaign, said Bitely, the Republican strategist. […]

“I don’t see that momentum behind (Craig),” Bitely said, predicting his write-in campaign could affect the GOP primary by pulling votes from other candidates, most likely Dixon.

Johnson, the wealthy Bloomfield Hills businessman who joined Craig for the joint television interview on Fox 2, estimated that running a successful write-in campaign would cost $22 million and be “very, very difficult” to pull off. 

Johnson is instead continuing his fight in federal court. 

On Thursday, his attorney asked a judge to expedite a hearing on Johnson’s latest ballot access lawsuit, which seeks a court order to halt the printing of ballots that must legally go out to military and overseas voters by June 18. […]

Democrats, meanwhile, contend Republican candidates have no one to blame but themselves. 

The GOP field has already been cut in half “due to corruption and mass fraud,” Michigan Democratic Party Chairwoman Lavora Barnes said in a statement, referencing the circulator fraud that candidates have denied direct knowledge of. And now, she argued, Kelleys actions on Jan. 6 have exposed the party’s “callous disregard” for the principles of democracy. 

“Michiganders won’t forget,” Barnes said.

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