The U.S. Senate campaign of Eric Brakey is challenging the validity of a Republican opponent’s paperwork to qualify for the primary ballot this June, saying the nomination petitions include signatures of dead voters and hundreds of duplicates.

In a formal complaint, Brakey political director David Boyer alleged that candidate Max Linn’s petition sheets contain at least four deceased signers, more than 200 duplicate signatures and several “inconsistencies” by one of the notaries. Boyer’s complaint, filed Thursday with Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s office, says the “duplicates, forgeries and altered petitions invalidate enough of Mr. Linn’s 2,248 signatures to preclude him from the Republican primary ballot.”

“We found some really glaring irregularities that could even be criminal,” said Boyer, a veteran petition campaign operative in Maine. “We worked way too hard to collect over 2,800 valid signatures to have others cut corners, cheat and potentially lie to get on the ballot.”

Linn fired back at Boyer – one of the primary advocates for legalized marijuana in Maine – and Brakey on Thursday afternoon.

“While I can appreciate a good prank from a registered lobbyist for legal weed, eventually all good pranks must come to an end,” Linn said in a prepared statement. “The sooner the good work done by both the diligent municipal clerks of Maine and the Secretary of State’s Office is once again validated, the better. It is going to take more than pranks to win in November, and I look forward to talking about my ‘Maine Now!’ agenda: trade, immigration, infrastructure and a strong military.”

CHALLENGE TO GO TO PUBLIC HEARING

Dunlap’s office will hold a public hearing on the challenge and must issue a decision within five days of the hearing. The Associated Press reported that Dunlap’s office said it also is reviewing the signatures for Brakey and Cody Blackburn, a Libertarian from Bangor who is running for the Maine House.

The two Republicans are vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Sen. Angus King, an independent, in the general election in November.

At age 29, Brakey is a Maine state senator from Auburn who is firmly planted in the libertarian wing of the Republican Party. Brakey launched his U.S. Senate bid in April 2017 – more than 18 months before the November 2018 elections – while Linn only joined the race in January.

Linn is a financial planner and resident of Bar Harbor who previously sought political office and ran campaigns while living in Florida. In his public comments and social media postings, Linn has aligned himself with the politics of President Trump and called for deportation of all illegal immigrants, construction of a border wall and the death penalty for drug dealers. But an anti-Linn website set up by the Brakey campaign noted that Linn had endorsed Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and also is a former Reform Party candidate for governor in Florida.

Brakey’s challenge adds a twist to what has been, to date, a quiet campaign that King is heavily favored to win.

To qualify for the June 12 primaries, candidates for the U.S. Senate must collect at least 2,000 signatures from voters registered in their party. Many campaigns use volunteer or paid petition circulators who must sign an oath that they personally witnessed each individual signing the sheet. Public notaries are then required to sign and date the “circulator’s oath” before municipal clerks verify that each petition signer is, indeed, a registered voter in that town or city.

Forging or duplicating signatures and falsely swearing a circulator’s oath is a Class E misdemeanor crime in Maine, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

LIST OF ALLEGED IRREGULARITIES

The deadline to submit petition signatures was March 15, and Dunlap’s office certified that Linn had submitted 2,248 signatures.

The Brakey campaign said it identified at least four signers who had been deceased for years and that the widow of one man also denied signing the petition. Among the other purported “irregularities” passed on to the Secretary of State’s Office: more than 200 duplicate signatures, photocopied petition sheets, inconsistencies in the way one notary signed and dated the oaths, and dozens of signatures that were invalidated by town clerks as not matching the signature on file.

Boyer, Brakey’s political director, alleged that the invalidated signatures, combined with other irregularities, suggested to him that many petition sheets may contain forgeries.

“If they didn’t follow the rules and do it legally, they don’t deserve to be on the ballot,” said Boyer, who helped lead the successful referendum campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Maine. “This is a time when citizen’s initiatives and signature collection are under scrutiny by some in our state, and this is why we have the challenge process. And we’d like to show the challenge process works.”

Democrat Zak Ringelstein also has qualified for his party’s primary ballot. All of the challengers are expected to face an uphill battle to dislodge King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats and holds several high-profile positions in Washington, including on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Kevin Miller can be contacted at 791-6312 or at:

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