A Michigan man has filed a lawsuit against Republican gubernatorial candidate Ryan Kelley aiming to prevent Kelley from appearing on the ballot in November over his alleged participation in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach.
Kelley is already on the ballot for the Aug. 2 primary and is considered the frontrunner to win the Republican nomination to challenge incumbent Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in the November general election.
The lawsuit (pdf) was filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals on July 14 by Michigan resident Lee Estes, with the support of the Democratic advocacy organization Progress Michigan.
Kelley was arrested on June 9 and charged with four misdemeanor offenses related to the Capitol breach on Jan. 6, 2021, according to court documents (pdf).
The charges include knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted area without lawful authority, disorderly conduct, knowingly engaging in physical violence in a restricted area, and willfully injuring or committing depredation against federal government property.
He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The lawsuit filed on June 14 states that Kelley’s participation in the events of Jan. 6 makes him “ineligible to serve as a candidate for Governor for the State of Michigan,” adding that he presents a “clear and present danger to democracy in Michigan.”
The lawsuit cites section three of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits individuals who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the [United States], or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof” from serving as a senator or representative in Congress, an elector of the president and vice president, or any other position in government.
The lawsuit also cites an oath to “support the Constitution of the United States,” which Kelley took in 2019 when he was appointed to his local planning commission.
Kelley Remains Top Candidate
In the suit, Estes asks Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat, and the Board of State Canvassers to declare that Kelley has violated the insurrection clause of the 14th Amendment and is thus ineligible to be a candidate for governor. The lawsuit also asks Benson to advise voters that Kelley is ineligible to hold office and that votes cast for him in the Aug. 2 primary will not be counted.
A criminal complaint by federal prosecutors noted that Kelley didn’t actually enter the Capitol building on Jan. 6, 2021, but video footage and images allegedly showed Kelley on restricted grounds at the Capitol.
Kelley issued a statement on July 14 in which he said the lawsuit is an attempt to distract from serious issues such as Michigan’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and the energy crisis currently plaguing the country.
“Radical left groups like ‘Progress Michigan’ are trying to keep me off the ballot and manipulate voters with dishonest claims 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.
“Yes, I am on the ballot August 2. Yes, I will be on the ballot November 8,” said Kelley, adding that he will “defeat Gretchen Whitmer and return Michigan to freedom, liberty, and prosperity.”
Despite Kelley’s June arrest, a poll conducted by the Detroit Free Press and research firm EPIC-MRA from June 10 to June 13 showed that Kelley appeared to get a boost in support, with 17 percent of Republicans surveyed stating that he is their preferred candidate, the highest percentage of the five candidates.
Jack Phillips and The Associated Press contributed to this report.