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Ryan Kelley survives ‘insurrection’ eligibility suit for Michigan governor

Lawsuit that sought to keep Michigan governor candidate Ryan Kelley off ballot was “dishonest” and “baseless,” he said. The suit was dismissed Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Michael Buck/WOOD TV-8)
  • Appellate court dismissed ballot access challenge against GOP governor candidate Ryan Kelley
  • Suit alleged Kelley was ineligible, citing ‘insurrection clause’ in U.S. Constitution
  • Kelley has pleaded ‘not guilty’ to charges stemming from Jan. 6 riots at U.S. Capitol

LANSING — Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley has survived a ballot access challenge and remains eligible for Michigan's general election should he win the Aug. 2 primary.

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected a lawsuit backed by Progress Michigan that had sought to keep Kelley off the November ballot, saying it was filed too close to the primary. The liberal advocacy group is considering further legal action, however, including potential appeal.

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The group's complaint alleged Kelley is ineligible for the general election because he violated the Insurrection Clause of the federal Constitution by participating in riots at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, when former President Donald Trump's supporters attempted to block congressional certification of his election loss. 

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Kelley is facing four federal misdemeanor charges stemming from the riots. He has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. He is not due back in court again until Sept. 22, well after the Aug. 2 primary. 

The three-judge appellate panel that considered the ballot access lawsuit was required to reject it because it was filed fewer than 28 days before the primary, according to an opinion signed by presiding Court of Appeals Judge Michael Gadola. 

Disqualifying Kelley from the general election ballot would be an "extraordinary remedy," and it has not yet been proven whether he violated the Insurrection Clause, Gadola wrote.

"We express no opinion whether Kelly engaged in 'insurrection or rebellion' or whether Kelley is qualified to serve as a gubernatorial candidate as a result," the judge continued. "As conceded by plaintiff, candidate Kelley has only been charged, and he has pleaded not guilty to those charges."

Kelley, an Allendale Township real estate agent and firebrand activist, is competing with conservative commentator Tudor Dixon of Norton Shores, businessman Kevin Rinke of Bloomfield Township, chiropractor Garrett Soldano of Mattawan and retired pastor Ralph Rebandt of Farmington Hills. 

The winner will take on Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who is seeking re-election. 

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Five other Republicans were disqualified from the primary ballot in May after it was determined that their nominating petitions included forged signatures.

In the complaint challenging Kelley's general election eligibility, Progress Michigan attorney Mark Brewer argued Kelley is unfit for office and urged the courts to make that determination before the primary, so voters would understand his legal status. 

The lawsuit cited language from the 14th Amendment in the U.S. Constitution that forbids anyone who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against” the United States or “given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” from holding any office in the country.

Kelley’s campaign called the complaint “laughable” and deemed the claims “dishonest” and “baseless.”

Liberals tried to keep him off the ballot "because they know that I am best suited to take on Governor Whitmer in November, and bring Michigan back from her and Biden’s disastrous policies," Kelley said in a statement. 

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