Tim Michels speaks at the Republican Party of Wisconsin’s 2022 state convention. (Screenshot | WisEye)
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has filed a challenge to the nominating papers of Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels, seeking to bar him from the ballot in the August partisan primary and the November general election.
Michels, a latecomer to the race, has surged to the top of recent polls and last week he was endorsed by former President Donald Trump. The co-owner of a construction company, he’s already spent millions of his own money to draw attention in the four-way Republican primary.
The complaint against Michels, which came from a Madison voter, alleges that most of the voter signatures on his nominating petitions came on papers that are deficient because they incorrectly list his mailing address.
State law requires gubernatorial candidates to file between 2,000 and 4,000 nominating signatures to gain access to the ballot. The papers that these signatures are on must include the candidate’s voting address and, if it’s different, their mailing address.
The complaint alleges that Michels’ voting and mailing addresses are different and the mailing address listed on 464 of the 532 papers he filed is listed incorrectly. On those papers, the only address listed is “6831 State Road 83 in the Village of Chenequa.” The complaint states that in order to be properly filled out, the address would have to be listed as “6831 State Road 83, Hartland, Wisconsin 53029.”
This mistake invalidates 3,516 of Michels’ signatures, according to the complaint. With only 345 valid signatures remaining, he would not be allowed access to the ballot.
In a statement, the Michels campaign called the complaint “frivolous” and said it would “vigorously” defend its signatures, arguing that Michels’ address was listed correctly and, even if it wasn’t, the papers include a P.O. box for the campaign.
The complaint argues that state law explicitly requires the candidate’s correct mailing address, so the campaign’s mailing address is insufficient.
“The return address at the top of each nomination paper — a post office box in Milwaukee — does not remedy the deficiency with these papers, nor does it satisfy substantial compliance with the statutory requirement for the candidate to include a mailing address on each nomination paper,” the complaint states. “That post office box may be an address for Respondent Michels’s campaign, but the campaign is a nonstock corporation distinct from the candidate. The post office box is not Respondent Michels’ mailing address, as demonstrated by his sworn Declaration of Candidacy. The statute is crystal clear in requiring that ‘Each candidate shall include his or her mailing address on the candidate’s nomination papers.’ On the vast majority of his nomination papers, Respondent Michels failed to follow this statutory mandate.”
Democrats have alleged that the state Republican party clearly believes in this interpretation of the law because it filed a challenge against Democratic Assembly candidate Patty Schactner’s nominating papers on the exact same grounds. In a press call on Sunday, Schactner didn’t give any details but said she made the same mistake.
The complaint against Michels comes just weeks after five Republican candidates for governor in Michigan were kicked off the ballot for that state’s election after it was alleged their campaigns fraudulently signed nominating papers.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission will certify nominating papers and decide if any complaints are valid at its June 10 meeting.
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