US presidential election: Trump appeals to reverse Maine decision to contest primary election

Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump filed an appeal on Tuesday seeking to overturn the ruling last week by Shenna Bellows, Maine’s secretary of state, to bar him from appearing on the state’s Republican primary ballot.

Ms. Bellows, a Democrat, “was a biased decision maker who should have recused herself and otherwise failed to provide lawful due process,” lawyers for Mr. Trump wrote in the 11-page appeal filed in Maine Superior Court. They further argued that she had “no legal authority to consider the federal constitutional issues presented by the challengers.”

Ms. Bellows “made multiple errors of law and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner,” the lawyers wrote. They demanded that the court vacate the secretary’s decision, which they described as “the product of a process infected by bias.”

Maine became the second state to exclude Mr. Trump from its primary ballot on Dec. 28, when Ms. Bellows found him ineligible under the third section of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits people who have engaged in insurrection from holding office. Her decision followed a similar landmark finding in Colorado, where the state’s Supreme Court ruled on Dec. 19 that he could not appear on the ballot there.

A spokesman for the Trump campaign previously called both states’ actions “partisan election interference” and “a hostile assault on American democracy.”

Similar challenges to Mr. Trump are playing out in states around the country, mostly in the courts. Mr. Trump is expected to file an appeal of the Colorado ruling with the United States Supreme Court within days. If the court takes the case, it would most likely put a hold on legal challenges elsewhere, though the potential impact on Maine’s unfolding process remains unclear.

Richard L. Hasen, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, and an election law expert, said he expects the appeal in Maine to proceed even if the Supreme Court takes up the Colorado case, because of the pressing need to resolve the matter, and because some of the legal questions in the two states differ.

“I don’t think that will stop the process in its tracks,” he said. “Trump wants to move ahead because he’s off the ballot, and the state wants finality.”

Given the need to finalize ballots promptly for voters in the military and overseas, the complex legal maneuvering is taking on increasing urgency. The Republican primaries in Maine and Colorado are both scheduled for Super Tuesday, March 5.

Challenges to Mr. Trump’s candidacy have been filed in at least 33 states. Beyond Colorado and Maine, at least 17 states have unresolved challenges in play, including California, New Hampshire, Oregon and North Carolina.

By law, the Superior Court in Maine must rule on Mr. Trump’s appeal by Jan. 17. That decision may then be appealed within three days to the state’s highest court, which must issue its own ruling within 14 days of the lower court’s decision.

Reaction to the Maine decision has been mixed among residents and elected officials. Ms. Bellows, a former state senator, was elected by the state legislature to her second two-year term in December 2022.

In the run-up to her decision, Mr. Trump’s lawyers demanded that she recuse herself because of prior social media posts in which she referred to the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, as an “insurrection” — evidence, they said, that she had already made up her mind about that day’s events, and his role in them, before hearing any evidence.

They argue in their appeal, as they did in their case filings, that the disqualification of a presidential candidate under the 14th Amendment is “a political question reserved for the Electoral College and Congress.”

Since releasing her decision, Ms. Bellows and her staff have faced threats and harassment, she wrote in a post on social media on Saturday, including a “swatting” call to state police that reported a fake emergency at her home after her address was shared online.

In her post on Facebook, Ms. Bellows called the threats “unacceptable,” adding, “We should be able to agree to disagree on important issues without threats and violence.”

New York Times