MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin elections officials voted Friday to allow Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate to stay on the Republican primary ballot in the presidential battleground state, pushing aside a Democratic challenge to his nomination papers.
The bipartisan Wisconsin Elections Commission voted unanimously to allow construction company co-owner Tim Michels to appear on the ballot.
Michels entered the race in late April, joining three other candidates vying for the Republican nomination: former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, state Rep. Tim Ramthun and business consultant Kevin Nicholson.
Trump endorsed Michels this month, calling him in an email an “America First Conservative” who will support gun rights and police and stand against what Trump called “the woke mob.”
Two days later, the state Democratic Party filed a complaint with the elections commission alleging that Michels used the wrong address on his nomination papers. It alleged that the mistake left Michels with only about 350 valid signatures. Michels needed 2,000 valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Michels’ campaign acknowledged that some of the nominating forms list his physical address in the village of Chenequa instead of his official mailing address that is in the nearby town of Hartland. But it said all of the forms include the campaign’s post office box mailing address.
Michels has called for eliminating the elections commission. The six-person panel has drawn intense criticism from Republicans for decisions commissioners made leading up to the 2020 presidential election, including the expanded use of absentee ballot drop boxes and prohibiting special voting deputies from helping nursing home residents fill out their ballots. The commission made the move after nursing homes across the state refused to allow visitors due to the COVID-19 pandemic and before vaccines were available.
The winner of the Aug. 9 primary will advance to face Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in the Nov. 8 general election.
The commission’s decision comes after the Michigan Supreme Court ruled this month that three Republican gubernatorial candidates — Perry Johnson, Michael Markey and Donna Brandenburg — can’t appear on that state’s primary ballot.
All three were doomed by fraudulent signatures on their nomination papers.
Michels released the following statement Friday:
"The people of Wisconsin won today. But this won't be the last obstacle Madison insiders throw in my way. Let’s be clear, in each step of the process, from the day we turned in our papers, to the staff recommendation earlier this week, and now the unanimous vote of the Commission, our signatures were recognized as valid and sufficient, despite all the howling from the usual suspects. My campaign has not lost a beat throughout this frivolous process. I am a fighter who is undeterred. We drive forward with all hands on deck as we campaign across the state and build an incredible organization that is going to defeat Tony Evers and get Wisconsin back on the right track. Our campaign is surging while growing bigger and stronger every day."