Republican U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn of Bar Harbor attends a hearing regarding alleged problems with some signatures on his ballot access petitions on Thursday, March 29, 2018 in Augusta. Credit: Chris Cousins

AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Max Linn’s ballot status will be reconsidered after his opponent in the June primary flagged more issues with nominating petition signatures that a state attorney said could strike him from the ballot.

Linn of Bar Harbor was allowed on the ballot in March by Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and narrowly held off a challenge earlier this month from his primary opponent, state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, despite having 230 signatures invalidated — some of which were from people who are dead or said their signatures were forged.

Brakey challenged Dunlap’s decision last week. Since then, his campaign says that it has found an additional 25 signatures of Linn’s that should be disqualified, including 16 from people who aren’t Republicans. Disqualifying them would put Linn below 2,000 valid signatures, the threshold for ballot access in a statewide election.

Superior Court Justice William Stokes granted an order sending Linn’s case back to Dunlap and allowed Brakey’s new evidence to be submitted, which Assistant Maine Attorney General Phyllis Gardiner, who is representing Dunlap, said “could potentially change the outcome” for Linn.

The state and an attorney for Brakey’s campaign support that while Linn opposed it, telling Stokes that “my campaign has been completely stalled with fundraising” amid uncertainty about his ballot status. Linn declined comment after the court hearing in Augusta on Friday.

David Boyer, Brakey’s political director, said the campaign felt “vindicated” by Stokes’ move, saying that the state wouldn’t have agreed to rehear the case without evidence that Linn fell short of 2,000 valid signatures. He said Brakey’s campaign was discovering new problems with Linn’s signatures on Friday.

The move forces a new hearing on Linn’s ballot status before Dunlap — likely next week. The Democratic secretary of state will issue another ruling after that. The case will then go back to Stokes and it could be appealed all the way to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Linn ran for Florida governor in 2006 as a third-party candidate and for a Democratic primary for a congressional seat in 2008, but he emerged in Maine politics earlier this year as a pro-President Donald Trump candidate for independent U.S. Sen. Angus King’s seat.

At a hearing in March, Brakey produced several witnesses who said they didn’t sign Linn’s petition — although their names and addresses appeared on it and submitted evidence that several people whose names appeared on Linn’s petitions were dead.

Brakey wanted Dunlap to strike whole petition pages for what his lawyer called “fraudulent conduct,” but at that time, the secretary of state instead struck only signatures that were flagged as fraudulent. Without citing evidence, Linn has blamed Brakey for planting the bad signatures.

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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...