Maine Republicans criticize ruling on Trump ballot eligibility, legal experts expect court battle

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Maine Republicans decried Bellows’ decision on social media.

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The Maine House GOP issued a statement where Republican leader Billy Bob Faulkingham was quoted denouncing the decision as “a sham” that “mimics third world dictatorships.”

“It will not stand legal scrutiny. People have a right to choose their leaders devoid of mindless decisions by partisan hacks,” Faulkingham said in the group’s post on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

The Maine Republican Party also weighed in on X Thursday night.

“We’ve been fighting this attack on the People since the beginning and we’ll never stop,” the Maine GOP said in the post.

“We will be taking this to court and will fight to the Supreme Court if necessary. And we reserve our right as a private organization to use another system — if that’s what it takes to keep a Democrat Hack Secretary of State from infringing on the Rights of Maine voters,” the Maine Republican Party said in a follow-up post.

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Jared Golden, a Republican who represents Maine’s 2nd congressional district, said he does not support Trump but believes he should remain on the state’s ballot.

“I voted to impeach Donald Trump for his role in the January 6th insurrection. I do not believe he should be re-elected President of the United States. However, we are a nation of laws, therefore until he is actually found guilty of the crime of insurrection, he should be allowed on the ballot,” Golden said in a statement he posted on X.

A spokeswoman for the Maine Democratic Party said the party would not be commenting on the ruling Thursday night.

Meanwhile, legal experts said the decision will be appealed and ultimately decide by the US Supreme Court. The Colorado case has already been appealed to the high court.

Dmitry Bam, provost and vice dean at the University of Maine School of Law, said he expects different states will continue to reach their own conclusions on Trump’s eligibility to remain on the ballot until the US Supreme Court weighs in. The timing of the Supreme Court’s decision on Trump’s eligibility is unclear.

He noted that there is little historical or judicial precedent to consider with the insurrection clause, which has been used only a handful of times since the Civil War.

“For a lot of people, what you believe politically is the way you end up coming down on the interpretation of the 14th Amendment,” Bam said in a phone interview Thursday night. “Beyond that, there’s not much more to go on.”

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Bam said he expects the court will ultimately lean in Trump’s favor and overrule the decisions in Colorado and Maine, but he is interested to see on what grounds the justices will base their ruling.

“It all comes down to the same kind of general ideas: was what happened an insurrection? And what Trump did, was that supporting an insurrection? I suspect that the court will eventually decide on one of those two issues. Either it was not an insurrection, or what he did was protected by the First Amendment and was kind of engaged in free speech and not supporting an insurrection,” he said.

Asked whether he believes the Maine decision may lead to future attempts to remove major candidates from the state ballot, Bam said “absolutely.”

“This is an issue that I think creates a potential challenge down the line [where] a single person, whether it’s a judge or a secretary of state, can take somebody off the ballot. I think it will be used potentially as a tool by partisans on both sides, whether it’s this election or future elections, to try to shape who people can vote for,” he said.

“We’ve been talking about court packing and other manipulations of the machinery of democracy, and this is an example of how it can be used,” he said. “We [also] see Republicans trying to use impeachment as a political tool. So I think a lot of the constitutional tools that existed in the background are now coming to the forefront as a way to use a political method to gain a partisan advantage.”

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Mark Brewer, chairman of the political science department at the University of Maine, said he would have ruled differently had the decision been his to make.

“This was certainly not cut and dried and one could make the case either way. But to me, Trump has not been charged with any of the disqualifying actions listed in the 14th amendment, much less been found guilty of anything at this point,” he wrote in an e-mail Thursday night.

Brewer said its “certainly possible” that Bellows’ decision could set a precedent for her successors, regardless of their political party, to remove major candidates from the primary ballot.

“Although one might hope we never see this question again,” he said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.


Nick Stoico can be reached at nick.stoico@globe.com. Follow him @NickStoico.

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Maine Republicans criticize ruling on Trump ballot eligibility, legal experts expect court battle

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