Calley mistakenly files signatures for other candidates

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Michigan gubernatorial hopeful Lt. Gov. Brian Calley inadvertently turned in dozens of nominating petitions for other candidates in unrelated races as part of his bid to qualify for the August primary ballot.

Lt. Gov. Brian Calley and his youngest daughter Karagan (left) and other family members (behind) deliver boxes of petitions to the Secretary of State office in Lansing on Tuesday, April 17, 2018.

The Portland Republican on Tuesday personally submitted thousands of petitions to the Secretary of State’s office, but at least 47 sheets contained signatures for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sandy Pensler and two petitions were for U.S. House hopeful Nancy Skinner, a Democrat.

Michael Stroud, a consultant for Calley’s campaign who was involved in the petition process, attributed the accidentally filed petitions to a circulator who had collected signatures for a number of candidates.

“Some petitions for other candidates were mistakenly put in boxes for Brian Calley,” Stroud said in a statement. “It’s doesn’t impact the total count, and over 25,000 validated signatures for Brian Calley were properly filed.”

Gubernatorial candidates need to collect 15,000 valid signatures to make the ballot, and Calley likely has far more than enough to qualify.

The erroneous petitions were discovered by a super political action committee supporting Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is competing with Calley in the Republican gubernatorial primary. Opponents routinely review candidate petitions for possible errors.

“It looks like the Calley clown car keeps rolling,” said Stu Sandler, who helps run the super PAC and supports Pensler rival John James in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

“I think the buck stops with the candidate, and Calley was the one that personally submitted them,” Sandler said of the petitions. “He can’t run a simple campaign, so how can voters trust him to run the state?”

Calley and Pensler both work with GOP strategist John Yob. Campaign finance reports show they each paid a Yob-related firm, 190 Personnel in Grand Rapids, for signature gathering and related services.

Pensler has not yet filed, according to the Secretary of State website.

State spokesman Fred Woodhams said the Bureau of Elections has not yet reviewed Calley’s submission. But if he did turn in petitions for another candidate, “we would consider the sheets and signatures on them invalid,” Woodhams said.

Staff will review the filing and report to the Board of State Canvassers after next week’s deadline, he said.

“Elections staff does not recall a situation in which a candidate turned in another candidate’s petition sheets,” Woodhams said.

Stroud worked on petitions for Calley and suggested a circulator mistakenly sent him signatures she had also collected for Skinner, a liberal candidate in the 11th Congressional District. Skinner would join a primary with five Democratic candidates already fighting for the chance to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Dave Trott, R-Birmingham.

Calley, Schuette, state Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township and Saginaw obstetrician Jim Hines have each filed signatures to qualify for the Republican primary ballot. Gretchen Whitmer of East Lansing and Abdul El-Sayed have so far submitted signatures for the Democratic primary.

Candidates have until Tuesday to file signatures. They can be challenged through May 1 — as happened to former U.S. Rep. John Conyers Jr., D-Detroit, in 2014 — and the Board of State Canvassers has until June 8 to certify petitions.

Calley was joined by his family at the Secretary of State’s office on Tuesday morning as he turned in petitions.

“There’s so many things that still need to be done, so I’m excited to take this important step in the pathway to continuing the Michigan comeback,” Calley told reporters at the time.