LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Democrats and Republican Rep. Thaddeus G. McCotter are on the same page for now on at least one issue.
Both are calling for a deeper investigation into how ballot-petition signature problems have forced Mr. McCotter to announce he will run his re-election bid as a write-in candidate in the state’s Aug. 7 election, potentially jeopardizing what had been considered a sure re-election.
Democrats smell wrongdoing, while Mr. McCotter hopes an investigation will clear him personally.
“This is unprecedented incompetence and fraud,” charged Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer on Tuesday over ballot-petition irregularities that have prompted the Secretary of State’s Office along with Michigan’s attorney general to launch a review.
“What we want to see is a very thorough investigation,” added Mr. Brewer, with Mr. McCotter “held accountable” if such an inquiry proved wrongdoing.
The congressman, who first won office in 2002, said in a statement released Tuesday morning that he would stake his claim for the 11th District seat as a write-in candidate amid concerns that his camp turned in an insufficient number of ballot petitions, which may contain irregularities.
“The buck stops with me,” the blunt-spoken congressman, 46, said in his statement, taking responsibility for the situation. “That’s why I urge the continued investigation into the petitions. Everyone deserves to know what happened regarding this filing.”
Of the 1,833 signatures Mr. McCotter submitted by the state’s May 15 deadline, just 244 appeared to be valid, said Gisgie Gendreau, spokeswoman for Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson. The minimum to qualify is 1,000 signatures. Her office has forwarded information to the Attorney General’s Office “to determine if there were election-law violations.”
“There were some issues that led to the reduction in numbers of signatures,” Ms. Gendreau said. “For example, duplicates - if their name appears multiple times, none of the signature with that name count. It also appears we received copies of nominating petitions, and we can only accept originals.”
She added of the quandary: “The candidate himself told Gongwer, which is a news service here in Lansing, that he feels someone he trusted lied to him, and he’s shocked.”
In comments made Tuesday morning on Detroit radio station WJR’s “The Frank Beckmann Show,” Mr. McCotter confirmed he may have been duped. “At some point, for something like this to happen, I do feel like someone … lied to me,” he said.
Republicans are flummoxed over the gaffe, noting that is shocking that a five-term member of Congress - and one who launched a quixotic presidential bid last year - could mishandle his own re-election bid, given his experience.
The bobble also is expected to be costly, forcing Mr. McCotter’s team into action mode to encourage voters to support him in a race that was almost certainly his to lose.
“It’s definitely a cataclysmic event in politics for an incumbent congressman to not file sufficient signatures to get on the ballot,” Wayne County GOP Chairman Bill Runco told reporters. “I’ve never heard of it.”
Mr. McCotter’s suburban Detroit district leans Republican and includes Bloomfield Hills, Birmingham, Novi, Livonia, Northville, Plymouth and Canton, among other areas of Wayne and Oakland counties. Write-in candidates for the congressional race must file with the state by a July 27 deadline.
Mr. McCotter penned an op-ed about his situation in the Detroit News, comparing his problems to those of film character George Bailey in the 1946 Frank Capra Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He described a write-in effort as a “difficult hill to climb,” but one he planned to ascend “to the utmost of my ability.”
“I feel like George Bailey after Uncle Billy admitted he lost the money. Like George Bailey, knowing my misplaced trust has negatively impacted so many people is heartrending. Unlike George Bailey, I am not tempted to jump off a bridge,” Mr. McCotter wrote. “Instead, I remember my late father’s rule: ‘You clean up your own mess.’ “
He added: “I may not have a guardian angel Clarence to help me, but I have something better — the opportunity in our free society to make my appeal to the sovereign citizens of our district for their support as the best candidate to help restructure government for the 21st century; grow our economy; defend our security; and, crucially, elect Mitt Romney our next president.”