Challenge claims Michels does not have enough valid signatures to get on Gov. primary ballot

MADISON, Wis. — A challenge to Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels’ nomination papers filed this weekend claims the Trump-endorsed candidate does not have enough valid nomination signatures to get on August’s primary ballot.

The challenge, filed by a Wisconsin voter but backed by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, claims that an error on the header of several pages of nomination signatures means only 345 of the 3,861 signatures the Michels campaign collected are considered valid. According to state law, a candidate for governor in Wisconsin needs at least 2,000 valid signatures on nomination forms to get on a primary ballot.

The attorney for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, Jeff Mandell, says state law requires candidates to provide a mailing address on their nomination papers, and that a mailing address is considered different than a residential address in certain parts of Wisconsin. The challenge to Michels’ nomination papers claims his campaign incorrectly used his residential address in the header of several pages of signatures instead of his mailing address, which would invalidate every signature on those pages.

According to Mandell, Michels’ mailing address is in Hartland, but his residential address is in a nearby village.

Mandell says signatures collected after May 1 appear to have corrected the issue with the proper address in Hartland listed in the header, but the number of those signatures falls well below the threshold needed to make the ballot.

The Michels campaign refuted those claims Sunday, saying they submitted a total of 4,000 signatures to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, with 3,861 signatures being validated. The head of Michels’ campaign also disputed the claim that any critical information was missing from the forms.

“Tim Michels’ home, legal residence, voting address, acceptable mailing address and the address displayed in all online navigational maps, has been the same house in Waukesha County since 2008, despite any petty insider political mudslinging attempting to say otherwise,” campaign manager Patrick McNulty said.

McNulty added while some of the nominating forms listed Michels’ residential address in the Village of Chenequa instead of his official mailing address with a Hartland ZIP code, all of the forms included the campaign’s P.O. Box mailing address.

The Michels campaign has three days — until Tuesday afternoon — to file a formal response to the challenge. The Wisconsin Elections Commission was already scheduled to meet Friday to rule on any nomination paper challenges and certify ballot placements for the August partisan primary.

News of the challenge comes just days after Michels received an endorsement from former President Donald Trump, surprising some political experts and creating a challenge for former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who had also been seeking the endorsement. Michels entered the race for governor well after Kleefisch, former U.S. Senate candidate Kevin Nicholson and current state representative Tim Ramthun, but has surged in the polls after pouring millions into television ads.

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Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair Ben Wikler argued Sunday that several candidates on both sides of the aisle had managed to compile enough valid signatures to appear on the ballot, specifically mentioning Kleefisch and Ramthun, but Michels had not.

“Election integrity means, at its core, following the law, and Tim Michels did not follow the laws laid out in Wisconsin statute to file enough valid signatures to make the ballot for the August primary,” Wikler claimed.

Michels’ campaign, however, is accusing Democrats of “working feverishly” to keep him off the ballot and slow his momentum.

“It comes as no surprise that they launched a frivolous complaint in an attempt to keep me off the ballot, just days after I was endorsed by President Trump,” a Michels statement released Sunday afternoon said. “They will not succeed.”