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Wisconsin Democrats try to knock Trump-backed gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels off August ballot

Michels and Trump
From the Michels for Governor website
This image was posted on Tim Michels campaign website, following his recent endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

The Wisconsin Elections Commission could face a choice this Friday that would have a major impact on the governor's race.

That's when the commission may decide on a new challenge aimed at keeping Republican businessperson Tim Michels off the August primary ballot.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party announced Sunday that Madison resident Jane Bernstein filed the challenge to Michels' nomination papers over the weekend, with financial backing from the party.

The Democrats claim Michels only has 345 valid signatures, well short of the 2,000 needed to get on the ballot in the governor's contest.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler announces the challenge to Tim Michels nomination papers during a Zoom call Sunday.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler announces the challenge to Tim Michels nomination papers during a Zoom call Sunday.

Democrats' lawyer Jeff Mandell said on most of his nomination papers, Michels failed to meet a requirement to list his mailing address of Hartland and instead listed his voting address in Chenequa. Mandell said the house address is correct, but the listed municipality is wrong.

"Under Wisconsin law, if the information in the heading of a nomination paper is wrong, no signatures on that paper can count. In this instance, the vast majority of the nomination papers submitted by the Michels campaign do not include Mr. Michels full mailing address. They do not indicate the city of Hartland," Mandell told the news media.

In a statement to reporters, the Michels campaign called the challenge "petty and frivolous," and went on to say the nomination paper form on the Michels campaign website accurately listed the candidate's physical address in Chenequa without mentioning that the mailing address is in the Hartland zip code.

The Republican promised a vigorous defense before the elections commission on Friday. But the Democrats' attorney Mandell contended Michels will have trouble filing any supplement to his nomination papers.

Democrats' attorney Jeff Mandell listens during Sunday's Zoom call
Democrats' attorney Jeff Mandell listens during Sunday's Zoom call.

"You can't use a supplement to change what's on the header of the nomination papers. The campaign puts together the papers, the template. Then, the individual voters sign. You can supplement the signatures by a voter, or supplement the signatures by the circulator if they forgot a date or forgot to put down what municipality they live in, or something like that. But the template of the form cannot be changed once voters have signed it because they are signing based on what is on the form," Mandell said.

Democrats said the complaint against Michels is similar to one that a GOP campaign committee controlled by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Racine County) has filed against a Democratic Assembly candidate in Western Wisconsin.

Last week, despite there being several Republicans running for governor, former President Donald Trump endorsed Michels.

Michels has been spending a lot of money on TV ads praising himself and criticizing Democratic incumbent Governor Tony Evers.

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