Colorado GOP, Scott Gessler join fray in Trump ballot-access lawsuit
The Colorado Republican Party is hoping to join the fight against a lawsuit that aims to keep former President Donald Trump off the state’s ballot next year.
The state GOP has fundraised off the case and is seeking to intervene in the legal proceeding — which was just sent back to Denver District Court this week by a federal judge after Trump’s attempt to move it failed. The case itself grapples with whether Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, is eligible to appear on Colorado’s primary and general election ballots in 2024 under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The petitioners — six Republican and unaffiliated Colorado voters — cite the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol and allege Trump “incited, exacerbated, and otherwise engaged” it. The Civil War-era amendment prohibits people from holding office if they have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the country.
The lawsuit, the first well-funded attempt to disqualify Trump from a state’s ballot, is being led by local attorneys and the liberal watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
In a recent filing, the Colorado GOP’s attorneys argued the party’s purpose in seeking to intervene on Trump’s side is “to protect the access of its members, statewide, to as many candidates as possible. Nominating and designating candidates is its core role — regardless of who any particular candidate might be.”
The state party hired attorneys associated with the American Center for Law & Justice. The group is led by Jay Sekulow, who spearheaded Trump’s defense in his first impeachment trial in 2020.
The voters involved in the case argue their interests as Republican primary voters would be harmed if a person later found to be ineligible for the ballot was included on it because that person potentially could siphon votes from other candidates.
Colorado Republican Party Chair Dave Williams has promised a vigorous defense against an effort he’s called “election interference, pure and simple.” He is pursuing plans that include trying to ditch the 2024 Republican primary vote altogether, in favor of selecting national delegates through the party caucus process, if the ballot-challenge lawsuit results in Trump being barred from appearing.
“Please know we are doing everything in our power to ensure Colorado Republican voters can cast their vote for President Trump, or whoever else they choose, on the March 5th, 2024, Super Tuesday Presidential Primary,” Williams wrote in a fundraising email Wednesday morning.
The lawsuit, filed in the Denver court last week, has bounced between state and federal courts before landing back where it started. The state GOP had filed its intent to intervene in the case in federal court, and Williams signaled it will continue to pursue the request.
Trump’s legal team, which includes Republican former Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, made the initial request to move the case to the U.S. District Court for Colorado because it invokes a Constitutional issue.
Trump’s team agreed to move the case back to state court after the petitioners warned they do not have standing for federal court. In federal court, the voters serving as plaintiffs would need to demonstrate an actual injury has happened in order to pursue a claim. But the plaintiffs maintain they have standing to sue in state court under Colorado law.
Complicating matters is Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s position as a co-defendant. The Democrat, named in her official capacity because her office supervises elections, did not agree to move the case to federal court — which itself made the move defective, U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer wrote in a filing.
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