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.
Commissioners said the address was close enough and Michels didn't deserve to be thrown off the ballot over the issue.
“There is no question in my mind (the Michels campaign is) in substantial compliance,” Democratic Commissioner Mark Thomsen said.
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.
Thomsen got in a jab just before the vote, saying he hopes the experience with his nomination papers helps Michels realize how complicated Wisconsin election law is and how interpretations of it can differ. He said Michels is always “yelling” about following the letter of the law, but if the commission had followed that philosophy, it might have thrown him off the ballot.
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.