Appeals court says 'The Tea Party' can't make ballot

By Kathy Barks Hoffman

AP Political Writer

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- The Michigan Court of Appeals said Monday that a group calling itself "The Tea Party" doesn't qualify for the Nov. 2 ballot because it didn't correctly show its name on petitions.

Republicans and tea party activists say "The Tea Party," which has nominated nearly two dozen candidates, is a fake party controlled by Democrats aimed at drawing away votes from Republican candidates. "The Tea Party" is being investigated following allegations that some of its potential candidates may have been nominated through fraud.

In its decision released Monday, the three-member court said the word "the" was not in 24-point bold face type on the petitions as required by law. Michael Hodge, the lawyer representing "The Tea Party," could not immediately be reached Monday evening to say whether he would appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

He has argued that the petitions submitted substantially met the requirements of state law.

John Pirich, an attorney for tea party activists and Republican candidates, has argued against letting the group be on the ballot. He said Monday he's waiting to see if "The Tea Party" appeals Monday's decision before deciding what to do. The Court of Appeals also denied his motion asking the court to direct the secretary of state to deny the certification of nominations because it already had decided the issue based on Hodge's case.

Most tea party activists say they aren't interested in running separate tea party candidates because that will just split the Republican vote. They say they don't know the people behind "The Tea Party" and distrust their intentions.

The Michigan Republican Party welcomed Monday's ruling.

"The Court of Appeals acted in the best interest of Michigan residents today with their action," GOP Chairman Ron Weiser said in a statement. He added that "The Tea Party" actions were intended "to deceive well-intentioned grass-roots activists."

The Board of State Canvassers voted 2-2 a week ago on a motion that would have allowed "The Tea Party" to be on the ballot, with Democrats supporting the move and Republicans opposing it. The tie vote meant the group's efforts were unsuccessful, and Hodge went next to the Court of Appeals.

State election officials estimated that "The Tea Party" submitted about 45,000 valid voter signatures, more than enough to be eligible for the ballot. But opponents asked the election board to disqualify the party because of what they said were irregularities on the petitions the group circulated to make the ballot.

"The Tea Party" is seeking to run candidates for attorney general, secretary of state, two of Michigan's 15 congressional districts, six of 38 seats in the state Senate and eight of 110 seats in the state House. The group also wants to run candidates for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, the State Board of Education and the Oakland County Board of Commissioners.

Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson, now the Republican secretary of state nominee, told the state election board that she suspects fraud in the nomination that "The Tea Party" submitted for the county commission. Johnson said the candidate told her office he was nominated without his knowledge.

The Oakland County Democratic Party executive board said in a statement after Johnson voiced her suspicions that it requested and accepted the resignation of one its staffers, Jason Bauer, whose name has been linked to "The Tea Party" effort. Bauer's name is listed as the notary on the affidavits of some of "The Tea Party" candidates, including the potential Oakland County commission candidate Johnson mentioned.

Judges in the case were Michael Kelly, Patrick Meter and Donald Owens.

Published: Wed, Sep 1, 2010


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