Jocelyn Benson, Democratic candidate for secretary of state, on Thursday dismissed attempts by the Michigan Republican Party a day earlier to link her to a group labeled as a fake tea party as typical GOP politics of her opponent, Republican Oakland County Clerk Ruth Johnson.
“The Republican Party and its host body, Ruth Johnson, have done this throughout the entire campaign,” Benson campaign spokesman T.J. Bucholz said. “They’re bringing in issues that have nothing to do with the secretary of state race.
“That’s the typical fear mongering of Ruth Johnson,” Bucholz said. “You’re dealing with No Truth Ruth.
“These are actions that are typical of a career politician. It wouldn’t be an election in Michigan if Ruth wasn’t on the ballot somewhere.”
Benson, 33, and Johnson, 55, are on the Nov. 2 ballot to become the next secretary of state.
The Michigan Republican Party held a news conference Wednesday afternoon linking Benson’s campaign to the group calling itself The Tea Party, which was unsuccessful in seeking political party status on the November ballot and which has been labeled a fake by Republicans and tea party organizations.
The Republicans claimed that former Oakland County Democratic Party Chairman Mike McGuinness was Benson’s former operations director and that McGuinness and former Oakland Democratic Party employee Jason Bauer both contributed to her campaign. They also say Bauer notarized 12 of 23 of the candidate filings for The Tea Party group.
Bucholz said Benson released a statement in August calling for a thorough investigation and prosecution, if necessary, and that Benson seeks to follow the example of 35 other states and make the secretary of state’s office a nonpartisan post.
“Ultimately, these questions have been asked and answered by Jocelyn Benson,” Bucholz said. “Obviously the connections to the fake tea party don’t exist.”
Bucholz said McGuinness was a member of Benson’s staff for three months and left when a project was completed.
“She had no inkling or knowledge that former member of her staff was involved in this,” Bucholz said. “I think the Republican Party is grasping at straws.”
McGuinness and Bauer both quit their positions with the county Democratic party after allegations of election fraud in the filings of some of the candidates listed with The Tea Party organization. A grand jury investigation in Oakland County is also under way.
McGuinness is the Democratic candidate for county commissioner in Oakland County in a district representing the east half of Waterford Township, the north of part of West Bloomfield Township, Lake Angelus, Keego Harbor and Sylvan Lake. His opponent is incumbent Commissioner John Scott, R-Waterford.
Contact Charles Crumm at 248-745-4649, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @crummc.