The campaign of Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn. (pictured), challenged opponent Max Linn's spot on Maine's June primary ballot, saying Linn submitted dozens of fraudulent signatures -- including four from dead people.

AUGUSTA, Maine — A state senator running against Republican U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn on Thursday challenged his spot on Maine’s June primary ballot, saying Linn submitted dozens of fraudulent signatures — including four from dead people.

Then, a Linn ally fired back with a complaint challenging the ballot status of his opponent, Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, alleging without evidence that a person who notarized signatures for Brakey’s campaign had been convicted of rape in the 1990s.

Both Brakey and Linn, a Bar Harbor financial planner who ran as a third-party candidate for Florida governor in 2006, were certified last week by Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to run in the Republican primary for the nomination to take on independent U.S. Sen. Angus King.

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But Dunlap’s office will have to take a second look at the ballot petitions that qualified Linn and Brakey, the latter of whom has been running for King’s seat for the past year. Statewide candidates must gather 2,000 qualifying signatures.

David Boyer of Portland, a Brakey employee, filed a challenge of Linn’s petitions with Dunlap’s office on Thursday. It alleges that hundreds of signatures should be tossed for several reasons — including forgeries on dozens of petitions and notary inconsistencies.

At least four signatures appear to be from people who died, according to Boyer’s complaint. He provided obituaries for all of those people and the city or town they lived in matched the petition signed. All of those people allegedly died between 2013 and 2015.

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The complaint against Brakey came later on Thursday from former Sanford city councilor Brad Littlefield, who is working on Linn’s campaign. His complaint said someone who notarized signatures for Brakey was convicted of rape in Rhode Island in the 1990s.

But evidence wasn’t provided, so the Bangor Daily News isn’t naming the person at this time and it’s unlikely that the allegations from Linn’s camp would affect Brakey’s ballot status.

Both challenges will trigger public hearings within a week. To oust a candidate from the ballot, a challenger has the burden of proving that certain signatures should be invalidated. Any decision by Dunlap after that hearing can be appealed in a state court, according to Maine law.

Linn only qualified for the ballot after Dunlap’s office took an extra day following the March 15 deadline to verify his petitions. The candidate was the last person in the secretary of state’s Augusta office suite and left after excoriating Littlefield for “creating this nightmare.”

Among the people with Linn in Dunlap’s office last week was Stavros Mendros, a former Republican legislator and signature gatherer from Lewiston who has misdemeanor convictions from 2007 stemming from a petition drive.

In a statement, Brakey said the purported issues with Linn’s signatures “show incredible disrespect for Maine people and our Maine election process” and asked him to leave the race.

Linn didn’t mention Brakey’s specific allegations against him in a statement to the Bangor Daily News, but he called the challenge “a good prank from a registered lobbyist for legal weed” — a reference to Boyer’s job as Maine director for the national Marijuana Policy Project.

In response to Littlefield’s complaint, Boyer said the Brakey campaign is “looking into” the allegations against the notary and that campaign workers first heard about them on Thursday, but he called it “a desperate and obvious attempt to deflect from Max Linn’s terrible day.”

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Michael Shepherd

Michael Shepherd joined the Bangor Daily News in 2015 after three years as a reporter at the Kennebec Journal. A Hallowell native who now lives in Augusta, he graduated from the University of Maine in...