AUGUSTA — Last week, disqualified U.S. Senate hopeful Max Linn took his campaign to the streets by dotting Maine’s landscape with political signs.

Now, Linn and his supporters are turning to the courts – once again – in hopes of legitimizing his embattled candidacy.

On Monday, Linn’s campaign announced that 14 supporters had sued in U.S. District Court hoping to force Secretary of State Matt Dunlap to count any votes cast for the Republican in the June 12 primary. The group is asking the court to issue an injunction prohibiting Dunlap from advising Republican voters that Linn is not an official candidate in the Senate primary – despite his name appearing on the ballot – and requiring Dunlap to record any votes for Linn.

Linn hopes to run against state Sen. Eric Brakey for the Republican nomination for the seat held by U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent seeking his second term this November.

The lawsuit alleges that Dunlap improperly used “guilt by association” when he tossed out entire sheets of petition signatures because some signatures on the sheets were believed to be fraudulent.

“The purported justification of the secretary in invalidating the disqualified signatures was the concern that they might be ‘tainted’ by fraud because they appeared on the petition forms in which some signatures were properly invalidated,” reads the lawsuit. “In essence, the secretary drew an inference of fraud and disqualified signatures as to which there was no actual evidence of fraud, based solely on the fact that they were on the same piece of paper as the invalid signatures.”

A Bar Harbor resident running under the slogan “Trump Strong,” Linn fell 10 signatures short of the 2,000 needed to qualify for the June 12 ballot after Brakey’s campaign presented evidence that petition sheets included signatures of dead voters as well as forgeries. Linn and his attorney acknowledged there was fraud perpetrated by someone gathering or notarizing petition signatures on the campaign’s behalf.

Both a Maine District Court judge and Maine’s Supreme Judicial Court upheld Dunlap’s decision excluding Linn from the June 12 elections. But because the June 12 ballots were already printed with Linn’s name included, the Secretary of State’s Office plans to distribute notices stating that “a vote for this candidate will not be counted and will be treated as a blank vote.”

Kristen Muszynski, spokeswoman for Dunlap, declined to comment on the pending litigation.

Brakey’s political director, David Boyer, who alerted Dunlap’s office to the potentially fraudulent signatures on Linn’s petitions, issued a brief statement after Monday’s lawsuit.

“Maine’s process has worked, voter fraud has been rooted out and Maine Republicans are rallying behind Eric Brakey to defeat Angus King,” Boyer said. “It’s time for a senator who will fight for Maine, not DC special interests.”

The lawsuit is the latest turn in a bizarre Republican primary campaign against King, who is widely regarded as a favorite for re-election. A Democrat, Zak Ringelstein, also plans to challenge King in November.

A recent transplant from Florida, Linn has closely aligned himself with the policies of President Trump and bankrolled much of his campaign. Linn’s “Trump Strong” signs began popping up all over Maine – and even a few places in New Hampshire – last week even though Dunlap’s office said he is not an official candidate and the Maine Republican Party is backing Brakey.

Boyer provided Dunlap’s office with a lengthy list of suspected fraudulent signatures, including some from dead voters and others by people who said they never signed a petition. While Dunlap initially ruled Linn had just enough signatures to qualify for the primary ballot, he subsequently invalidated additional signatures in response to more evidence provided by the Brakey campaign.

Linn appealed Dunlap’s finding first to Maine District Court and then to Superior Court and the state Supreme Judicial Court, all of which upheld Dunlap’s determination.

 

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