The Cruz campaign is attempting to get John Kasich removed from the Montana primary by questioning the signatures he’s compiled, according to CBS News. The move is likely another chapter in the GOP’s ongoing quest to uproot Trump’s aspirations for the Republican nomination.
The Associated Press has obtained emails which show that officials with Cruz’s campaign raised questions about the signatures Kasich has compiled. A minimum of 500 signatures is required for a candidate to appear on the Montana ballot. Kasich has 622, meaning that issues with a fraction of them could possibly disqualify him from appearing on the Montana primary ballot.
Cruz’s campaign officials allege that the signatures Kasich has compiled contain numerous inconsistencies. Among them are improper dates, mismatched phone numbers, invalid notaries, and illegible names. Although the Cruz campaign hadn’t yet filed a legal challenge as of Wednesday, a spokesman had this to say:
‘Because John Kasich’s campaign filed only 622 signatures, and the minimum number of signatures required under Montana law is 500, there is a reasonable probability that material defects with his petitions reduce the number of valid signatures below the required minimum, and John Kasich is therefore not eligible for placement on the ballot.’
Representatives for Kasich’s campaign have outright dismissed the claims. According to Greg Frank, a co-chair of the Kasich campaign in Montana,
‘The validity and the integrity of the signatures I can personally attest to. I personally collected the majority of them, and I personally submitted them to the county elections office. Ted Cruz might be afraid of the competition. If they’re going to try dirty pool and dirty politics, I think there will be consequences with the electorate.’
Linda McCulloch, Secretary of State for Montana, told reporters that Kasich’s name will remain on the ballot unless a judge orders otherwise. The primary is on June 7th. She added that it is the responsibility of county election officials to validate these signatures.
If the Cruz campaign wishes to offer a former legal challenge to Kasich’s place on the ballot, they’ll need to do it fast. The ballots must be printed by mid-April, giving Cruz a window of only a couple of weeks to force a 2-man race and hopefully shore up votes that would’ve gone to Kasich.
The fact that there’s the potential for a fierce battle over delegates in Montana underscores the desperation of GOP hopefuls like Cruz in their bid to keep Trump from the convention. Montana only has 27 delegates, the tiniest piece of the 1,237 needed to win the GOP nomination. But the Cruz campaign is likely hoping that forcing a race in the Treasure State between him and Trump will help Cruz bring in valuable votes from groups that don’t view Trump favorably, such as moderate Republicans and women. Frighteningly enough, a Quinnipiac University poll released earlier this month actually suggests that losing a candidate in the primaries would work in Trump’s favor.
Despite suspending their campaigns, Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush will still appear on the Montana ballot. Neither candidate has challenged Kasich’s signatures.