AUGUSTA, Maine — Republican U.S. Senate candidate Max Linn’s ballot status in the June primary will be decided by a Maine court after his opponent, state Sen. Eric Brakey, said Tuesday that he would file a challenge against Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

Dunlap ruled last week that Linn could stay on the primary ballot for independent U.S. Sen. Angus King’s seat despite invalidating 230 signatures from his nominating petition for numerous problems, including many forged signatures — including some from dead people.

Brakey’s campaign appealed Dunlap’s decision to Kennebec County Superior Court after finding evidence that more than 18 signatures not presented to the secretary of state’s office could be fraudulent — a threshold that could get Linn off the ballot.

“I believed that he was honestly seeking to get on the ballot through honest means,” Brakey said of Linn. “But now we all know that his campaign isn’t being honest with the Maine people and is actively trying to defraud our Maine election system.”

On Twitter, Linn recycled the “Cowardly Eric Brakey” moniker that he first aired at a news conference last week, saying the Maine Republican Party should “disavow” the state senator’s challenge.

Both candidates were certified for the primary ballot in March, but Brakey’s campaign challenged a number of signatures collected by volunteers and signature gatherers funded by the Linn campaign.

In hearings earlier this month adjudicated by Dunlap’s office, Brakey’s campaign argued that the presence of dozens of forged or fraudulent signatures on Linn’s paperwork — including some from voters who are dead — were grounds for disqualifying all the signatures from certain gatherers and for Linn to be thrown off the ballot.

Dunlap, who is a Democrat, disagreed, writing in an April 6 decision that despite finding 230 signatures invalid, Linn’s paperwork meets legal requirements with 2,018 valid signatures — just 18 more than the ballot access threshold.

Linn said during his news conference last week in Augusta that Brakey or people working for him had “sabotaged” his campaign somehow, though he has provided no evidence and declined to answer questions on the topic from reporters.

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.”

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

For a roundup of Maine political news, click here for the Daily Brief. Click here to get Maine’s only newsletter on state politics via email on weekday mornings.

Follow the Bangor Daily News on Facebook for the latest Maine news.

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...