Ryan Kelley, a real estate agent and Republican primary candidate for governor, has a lawsuit filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals against him that claims he is not eligible to serve as governor for his role in the Jan. 6, Capitol insurrection. Retired attorney and Oakland County resident Lee Estes, argues in the suit that Kelley is ineligible to run for office under the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution because he has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the U.S. after previously taking an oath to uphold the Constitution. This refers to the oath Kelley swore when he was appointed as a planning commissioner in Allendale Township in 2019.
Kelley was arrested on June 9th, 2022 by federal agents and charged with four misdemeanors for his involvement in the insurrection which are, entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; disorderly and disruptive conduct; knowingly engaging in an act of physical violence against a person or property; and willfully injuring property, according to the criminal complaint. The charges together would carry fines of up to $400,000, and up to four years in prison. Kelley pleads ‘not guilty’ to the four charges and the case will continue and is unlikely to face trial on the criminal charges before the August 2nd primary.
Progress Michigan is the group that assisted with research and financial support for Lee Estes’ lawsuit against Kelley. The executive director Lonnie Scott stated “It’s simple, really. If you supported and participated in the January 6 insurrection, you should not have the privilege of holding – or even running – for public office, Whether it’s Ryan Kelley or anyone else that was illegally at the Capitol trying to overturn the will of the people, there needs to be accountability.”
Kelley has continued to push the debunked narrative surrounding the 2020 presidential election and calls the investigation into January 6 as a “witch hunt” and claims federal authorities are trying to silence him. In an official press release response on his campaign site, he stated that the charges of his involvement in the insurrection are “laughable” and that the lawsuit against him is an attack by “the radical left” to silence him.
Known for using inflammatory rhetoric, Kelley refers to the current governor’s administration as the “Whitmer crime family” referring to his accusations of Governor Gretchen Whitmer, Attorney General Dana Nessel and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson allegedly committing felonies. He has on multiple occasions demanded these elected officials be arrested as well as put in prison. Among these allegations, he claims Governor Whitmer violated federal laws by implementing restrictions on gatherings to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This rhetoric as well as news of his arrest seemed to gain him more recognition and support amongst far right conservative voters.
There is a growing concern amongst those in the Michigan GOP about how his far right views will cause more fractures with conservative voters in the Republican party. Jason Watts, an Allegan Republican and political consultant, stated “the GOP would be left in a state of “paralysis” if Kelley wins the nomination.” Jason Roe, the former executive director of the Michigan Republican Party said “trying to be the most extreme candidate in a primary race is not a path to winning in November.” And former Michigan Chamber of Commerce CEO Rich Studley stated “Kelley seems to be among multiple candidates who are “angry” and “anti-government” while running for “the single most important position in state government.”