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Craig files as write-in for Michigan GOP governor primary

June 14, 2022 GMT
FILE - James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, announces he is a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, on Sept. 14, 2021, in Detroit. A Michigan judge declined to put a former Detroit police chief on the Republican ballot for Michigan governor, the third candidate to lose a court challenge after election staff said campaign petitions were marred by fraudulent signatures. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, announces he is a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, on Sept. 14, 2021, in Detroit. A Michigan judge declined to put a former Detroit police chief on the Republican ballot for Michigan governor, the third candidate to lose a court challenge after election staff said campaign petitions were marred by fraudulent signatures. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, announces he is a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, on Sept. 14, 2021, in Detroit. A Michigan judge declined to put a former Detroit police chief on the Republican ballot for Michigan governor, the third candidate to lose a court challenge after election staff said campaign petitions were marred by fraudulent signatures. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, announces he is a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, on Sept. 14, 2021, in Detroit. A Michigan judge declined to put a former Detroit police chief on the Republican ballot for Michigan governor, the third candidate to lose a court challenge after election staff said campaign petitions were marred by fraudulent signatures. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
FILE - James Craig, a former Detroit police chief, announces he is a Republican candidate for governor of Michigan, on Sept. 14, 2021, in Detroit. A Michigan judge declined to put a former Detroit police chief on the Republican ballot for Michigan governor, the third candidate to lose a court challenge after election staff said campaign petitions were marred by fraudulent signatures. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Former Detroit police Chief James Craig filed Tuesday to run as a write-in candidate for Michigan governor weeks after being tossed from the Aug. 2 Republican primary ballot.

Craig was among five Republican candidates deemed ineligible after the state elections bureau determined they fell short of collecting the necessary number of valid signatures. The elections bureau found last month that the candidates submitted fake signatures collected by paid petition circulators.

Craig and his campaign also filed a complaint Monday in Kent County Circuit Court against a company hired to gather the signatures. The lawsuit, which alleges fraud and breach of contract, names In Field Strategies Inc. and about 20 hired circulators who “signed affidavits falsely swearing that they had obtained genuine signatures from among the thousands of voters who support Chief James Craig, the leading Republican gubernatorial candidate.”

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The Associated Press left a voicemail and email late Tuesday afternoon seeking comment from In Field Strategies.

The elections bureau found that Craig submitted 10,192 valid signatures — well short of the 15,000 needed. It tossed 11,113 signatures, including 9,879 that were allegedly fraudulently collected by 18 paid circulators. The agency found evidence of consistent handwriting across all signatures on individual petition sheets and of “round-tabling,” where circulators took turns signing a line on each sheet in an effort to vary handwriting and make signatures appear authentic.

Craig, along with wealthy business consultant Perry Johnson, had been considered GOP front-runners for governor.

Johnson turned in 13,800 valid signatures, according to elections bureau staff. The bureau tossed 9,393, including 6,983 it said were fraudulent and were gathered by many of the same people who collected signatures that Craig submitted.

A vote by the Board of State Canvassers later kept Craig, Johnson and three other candidates off the ballot.

A judge also declined to put Craig on the ballot, while Johnson was unsuccessful in a federal lawsuit seeking to put his name on the ballot.

Five candidates remain in the Republican primary: Tudor Dixon, Kevin Rinke, Ryan Kelley, Garrett Soldano and Ralph Rebandt. The winner will face Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.