But McCotter’s campaign will prove challenging for House Republicans in multiple ways. The NRCC has not supported a write-in candidate since Shelley Sekula-Gibbs sought the seat of former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) in 2006. And in Michigan, no one has won a write-in campaign for Congress in recent history.
First, McCotter must file his intent to run as a write-in candidate by July 27. Michigan election law does not require the voter to write in the name of a candidate perfectly, but the voter’s intent must be clear.
To secure the GOP nomination, McCotter must receive more votes than the lone Republican on the ballot, teacher Kerry Bentivolio, a perennial candidate.
Additionally, McCotter must have a certain number of write-in votes to qualify as the nominee. The secretary of state’s office determines that threshold as at least 0.15 of 1 percent of the total population of the district.
Republicans estimated McCotter could need 25,000 to 41,000 write-in votes to do that. McCotter received 43,303 votes when he ran unopposed in the comparable 2008 GOP primary.
“I’m working under the assumption that because we’ve never done one, it’s going to be the hardest [race] we’ve ever done,” McCotter said. “We’re not only running against an opponent, we’re running against the ballot itself.”
McCotter might have even more company in the race.
State Sen. Mike Kowall (R) dropped his primary challenge against McCotter in January, throwing his support behind the Congressman’s re-election. But in light of McCotter’s embarrassing signature snafu, Kowall said he has been encouraged to launch his own write-in campaign.
“I’ve been approached,” Kowall said Tuesday. “I was in parades all weekend, and I had people yelling at me, saying ‘Where do I sign a write-in petition?’”
To prepare for the write-in effort, McCotter said he plans to reach out to recent winners of such contests. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) won a general election write-in campaign after losing her party’s nomination last cycle.
But McCotter’s petition botch was more reminiscent of another write-in candidate from the past decade: former Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-Ohio).
In 2006, Wilson failed to get the 50 signatures required to get on the Democratic primary ballot, falling only a few short of the requirement. House Democrats quickly rallied behind Wilson by sending staff and other resources to eastern Ohio to help him in the open-seat race. He won the nomination by a margin of more than 28,000 votes and went on to win in November.
It’s too early to tell whether the NRCC will have a similar all-hands-on-deck response for McCotter. In some ways, the McCotter campaign’s mistakes were more egregious, although the signature requirement is higher.
In Michigan, candidates need 1,000 valid signatures to qualify for the primary ballot for Congress. But the secretary of state’s office deemed only 244 signatures valid out of the 1,844 that McCotter’s campaign filed.
An initial review of McCotter’s petitions showed many duplicate signatures, according to a spokeswoman from the secretary of state’s office. The problems with his petitions were so serious that state Attorney General Bill Schuette launched a fraud investigation into the signatures.