AUGUSTA, Maine — Former Florida gubernatorial candidate Max Linn said he will donate $25,000 to the National Rifle Association if his primary challenger, Republican Sen. Eric Brakey of Auburn, will participate in 16 debates throughout Maine by June 1.

Linn, a financial planner from Bar Harbor, made his announcement Monday during a news conference at the State House complex. His news conference comes as Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap investigates claims that Linn’s campaign falsified signatures on his ballot access petitions.

Linn said Brakey launched the signatures case to “discredit” his campaign, alleging without evidence that his opponent’s campaign planted the bad signatures on his petitions.

“Cowardly Eric Brakey knew the negative press that would have on my campaign,” said Linn, who used a giant check to the NRA as a prop.

David Boyer, political director for Brakey’s campaign, said after the news conference that Brakey would consider Linn’s request if Linn’s name ends up on the June 12 primary ballot.

“That he blames us for his poor campaign and poor management of his circulators is pretty ridiculous,” Boyer said. “We have better things to do than try to sabotage Linn’s campaign. He’s doing a good enough job of that on his own.”

Linn has a well-documented and eccentric political history in Florida, where he ran for governor as a Reform Party candidate in 2006 and for a congressional seat as a Democrat in 2008. Before that election, he wrote a book praising former Democratic President Barack Obama.

But Linn made a political comeback in Maine in January, when he announced his Senate candidacy to the Maine Republican Party’s state committee as a pro-President Donald Trump Republican. He tweeted last week that illegal immigrants “have to go back!”

The issue of the allegedly fraudulent or forged signatures on Linn’s ballot access paperwork is being overseen by Dunlap, who told the Bangor Daily News on Monday that he is still considering the case.

At one point during a hearing on Thursday into the matter, an attorney for Linn suggested that the Brakey campaign submitted faulty signatures, including several from dead people, as a means of sabotaging Linn’s campaign.

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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...