McQuade backs Nessel for AG after independent falls short on signatures

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Democrats are most likely to regret their decision before November to embrace Dana Nessel as their attorney general nominee, Finley writes.

Lansing — Former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade on Friday endorsed Democrat Dana Nessel for Michigan attorney general after an independent candidate she was backing failed to collect enough signatures to make the ballot. 

Former federal prosecutor Chris Graveline said late Thursday he had collected 14,157 of the 30,000 signatures by the state's filing deadline. The Berkley hopeful indicated he was "still in this" and planned to sue over the signature threshold.  

But Graveline lost his biggest supporter when McQuade announced she is now backing Nessel after her former colleague fell short on signatures.

"As a civil rights lawyer and former prosecutor, Dana has the experience to serve and the vision to lead as our state’s next AG," McQuade told The Detroit News in an email.  

McQuade said she doesn't know much about Graveline's planned lawsuit but said she is "supporting Dana because it is important that our next AG is someone who will use that office to protect the residents of Michigan, as I know Dana will." 

Nessel is "a former prosecutor and civil rights lawyer, who will be an outstanding AG," McQuade said on social media. "She will work hard to protect the residents of Michigan."

Graveline, who did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment by The Detroit News, said Thursday night that collecting more than 14,000 signatures in six weeks was an “amazing feat."

Christopher Graveline

Writing on his campaign page, Graveline said no candidate for statewide office has reached the 30,000 signature threshold since it was established in 1988.

It’s “time to challenge the status quo,” he wrote. “Federal suit coming next week. Every good lawyer has a plan B.”

Secretary of State spokesman Fred Woodhams confirmed that Graveline attempted to file an estimated 14,000 signatures, less than half the number needed for a candidate running with no party affiliation.

"Because he did not claim to have enough valid signatures, his filing was not accepted,” Woodhams said.

Ralph Nader filed enough signatures to make the ballot as an independent and unaffiliated candidate in 2004, he said. Partisan gubernatorial candidates are required to file 15,000 signatures to make the primary ballot, but two filed the maximum 30,000 instead.

 “Demonstrating the support of 30,000 people to run in a race in which more than 3 million voters will participate should not be a high hurdle to clear for a candidate with enough support to win,” Woodhams said. “Other no-party affiliation candidates have done it and partisan candidates regularly come close even when they don’t have to.”

Graveline's candidacy posed a potential threat to Nessel, who won endorsement at a Michigan Democratic Party convention in April. McQuade, who had supported his independent bid, originally backed former Grand Rapids U.S. Attorney Pat Miles in the Democratic convention race.

Graveline’s threat to file suit after campaigning for six weeks and failing to meet the signature requirement is “offensive,” said Lucas Bezerra, a spokesman for Nessel’s campaign.

Nessel has been campaigning for 11 months, said Bezerra, who added that she will make the ballot because supporters drove through a snow and ice storm to vote on the Democratic Party endorsement.

“Any effort by Graveline to challenge a process which ensures that candidates who appear on the ballot for these critically important offices are actually serious displays of unmitigated hubris and arrogance. Those who appear on the ballot in November ought to have earned the right to do so,” Bezerra said.

Nessel, a lawyer best known for helping overturn the state’s same-sex marriage ban, is expected to be formally nominated to the ballot as the Michigan Democratic Party's candidate for attorney general at a separate convention in August.

House Speaker Tom Leonard of DeWitt and state Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker of Lawton are competing for the Republican nomination, which will also be decided at an August primary.

Current Attorney General Bill Schuette is term-limited ad cannot seek re-election. He is running for governor instead.

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