AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn can stay on Maine’s June primary ballot despite having 230 signatures invalidated, Secretary of State Matt Dunlap ruled on Thursday.

The move pits Linn, a Bar Harbor financial planner, against state Sen. Eric Brakey, R-Auburn, in the party’s primary to take on independent U.S. Sen. Angus King in November — unless Brakey appeals Dunlap’s move and persuades Maine’s court system to boot Linn.

Linn was certified for the ballot by the Democratic secretary of state in March, but Brakey’s campaign quickly challenged that, saying hundreds of signatures from Linn’s petition should be tossed over dozens of fraudulent signatures — including some from deceased persons — and other issues.

Dunlap said in a news release late Thursday afternoon that Linn’s ballot access paperwork “meet the legal requirements” to qualify for the ballot. Dunlap said he invalidated 230 of Linn’s signatures, leaving him with 2,018 that were valid — 18 more than the legal threshold of 2,000.

According to Maine law, the Brakey campaign has five days to appeal the decision in Maine Superior Court.

“I am glad we can now get into the business of having a Republican primary election and debating the important issues,” Linn said in a statement.

Brakey’s campaign argued that all signatures from gatherers who submitted bad signatures should be disqualified. In a statement, David Boyer, Brakey’s political director, said despite the decision, Dunlap’s office “found numerous of acts of fraud and forgery” and the campaign “will decide on an appeal shortly.”

At first, Linn called Brakey’s challenge a “prank.” But at a hearing last week, Brakey produced several witnesses who said their signatures had been forged on Linn’s petitions — including Matthew Foster, the district attorney in Hancock and Washington counties.

An attorney for Linn said the bad signatures could have been because of human error, dishonest signers or interference from Brakey’s campaign, which denied that allegation. Linn said Brakey “sabotaged” his campaign — without providing evidence — at a Monday news conference. Dunlap, a Democrat, called that theory “pure speculation” in his decision.

Brakey has been running against King for just over a year, but Linn emerged as a candidate in January, when he pitched himself to state Republicans as a President Donald Trump-aligned hopeful, saying immigrants here illegally “need to go back home.”

Linn has a colorful past in Florida politics. He ran for governor there in 2006 and won 2 percent of votes as a Reform Party candidate. He lost a Democratic congressional primary in 2008. Linn also wrote a book praising former Democratic President Barack Obama.

In a separate case, Dunlap ruled that Cody Blackburn, a Libertarian candidate for a Bangor seat in the Maine House of Representatives, will also appear on the primary ballot following an unsuccessful challenge of signatures on his ballot access petition.

BDN State House bureau chief Christopher Cousins contributed to this report.

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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...