Maine Secretary of State Matt Dunlap says Republican U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn of Bar Harbor should not qualify for the June primary ballot.
Dunlap’s recommendation follows a hearing held Tuesday in which rival GOP candidate Eric Brakey called for the Maine attorney general to conduct a criminal investigation into fraudulent ballot petitions submitted by Linn’s campaign.
Linn’s attorney didn’t object at the hearing — in fact, he agreed. But he didn’t think it should disqualify Linn from the ballot.
The request to bring in the Maine attorney general’s office came at the end of a second probe into whether Linn had enough valid signatures to qualify for the June primary election. About 45 minutes into Tuesday’s hearing before Secretary of State Matt Dunlap, Linn’s attorney Steven Juskewitch called the array of irregularities uncovered by Brakey’s campaign “hanky-panky,” defined as questionable or underhanded activity.
Josh Tardy, the attorney representing Brakey and his political director David Boyer, said the forgeries and questionable notary signatures on Linn’s ballot petitions are more than just political chicanery.
“The hanky-panky that exists here is at an astounding level. And beyond this actual petition challenge, I think the Brakey campaign and Mr. Boyer are requesting that this secretary exercise your discretion and refer this matter, regardless or your decision, to the attorney general’s office for the appropriate criminal investigation,” he said.
Brakey is attempting to unseat independent U.S. Sen. Angus King this fall. But he drew a late primary challenger in Linn, a financial planner and former Florida resident who deployed rhetoric echoing the substance and style of President Donald Trump.
Brakey’s campaign challenged whether Linn had the 2,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for the primary ballot. The Secretary of State then tossed out more than 200 of Linn’s signatures because his petitions included duplicates and forgeries of people who are dead. That left Linn with 2,018 signatures — just 18 above the qualifying limit.
But Brakey’s campaign appealed once more in Kennebec Superior Court, which remanded the challenge back to the secretary of state to review additional evidence of irregularities. Brakey’s camp then presented new evidence of 45 questionable signatures, a number that could disqualify Linn from the ballot.
Juskewitch, Linn’s attorney, acknowledged the irregularities and even suggested that someone engaged in fraudulent behavior. But he said that should not disqualify dozens of the signatures on a single petition, because the law requires that Brakey’s camp prove the intent to commit fraud, not merely find it.
“Trust me, if I had an inkling of who might have done it and why, I’d tell you, because it makes my job easier,” he said. “They have the burden of showing bad things and if I knew what the bad thing was and how it happened, and who did it, then it would make your job easier, too.”
The final decision on whether Linn is disqualified will be in the hands of Kennebec Superior Court Judge William Stokes, who has scheduled a hearing for Wednesday morning.