A former federal prosecutor could become the first Independent candidate for Michigan Attorney General to appear on the ballot in decades after a judge issued a decision that overrules a 30-year-old state law requiring independent candidates running for state office to obtain 30,000 signatures from people across the state.
If you’re a Democrat or Republican running for Attorney General you have to be nominated by your party to be on the November ballot. There is no requirement to obtain a certain number of signatures from the general public.
If you don’t belong to a recognized party and want to run for a state office like Attorney General as an Independent, you’re required to obtain 30,000 signatures across the state - including 100 from at least half the districts.
Christopher Graveline says that’s not a realistic expectation.
“It’s not realistic at all. I mean not a single Independent candidate has been able to do that who’s been running for a statewide office since 1988,” says Graveline, a former federal prosecutor who began his career as an attorney in the U.S. Army where he spent his final two years of service prosecuting the Abu Ghraib prison abuse cases.
Most recently he headed the violent and organized crime unit in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit.
In the past five years, he says he was able to help reduce violent crime by 30% with strategies he hopes to implement statewide.
In June, as Michigan law requires, he quit his job to begin his campaign for Attorney General.
“We were able to collect 14,000 signatures in about a six week time period to show the viability of my candidacy,” says Graveline.
It wasn’t enough. He didn’t have the 30,000 signatures state law requires, so his application to run for Attorney General was not accepted.
Graveline filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the current law.
“As we did our research, no independent had ever met that particular hurdle in the 30 years its been a law,” says Graveline.
He believes the law sets an unfair and unrealistic expectation for Independent candidates and a federal judge agreed, issuing a decision that says instead of 30,000 signatures, Graveline only needs 5000 valid signatures.
He’s turned in nearly three times that number and is waiting for them to be validated.
The state appealed the decision and lost.
“I feel fantastic I think this is the way politics should work,” he says.
Graveline says he doesn’t believe the position of Attorney General should be connected with a political party and wants to offer a moderate, non-partisan option to people in Michigan.
He will get the official word that his name will be on November’s ballot when his signatures are validated, he expects that to happen by Friday.