The U.S. state of Maine followed Thursday the precedent set by Colorado to block former president Donald Trump from its Republican presidential primary ballot over his role in the January 2021 U.S. Capitol assault.
Maine’s top election official, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, decided in favor of the citizens who had claimed that Trump should be constitutionally barred from seeking re-election after trying to upend the 2020 election.
Bellows said in her decision that the Jan. 6 attack “occurred at the behest of, and with the knowledge and support of, the outgoing President.”
“The U.S. Constitution does not tolerate an assault on th feoundations of our government and (Maine law) requires me to act in response,” read the decision, which came in response to challenges filed by a handful of Maine voters.
Maine joins Colorado, where the state supreme court this month found Trump ineligible for the presidency, moves that will certainly be challenged in the US Supreme Court.
Bellows said she was suspending the effect of her decision pending any court appeal by Trump.
The decisions in both states invoked the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which bars from office anyone formerly sworn to protect the country who later engages in insurrection.
“I do not reach this conclusion lightly,” wrote Bellows, a Democrat. “I am mindful that no Secretary of State has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the 14th Amendment. I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”
Later on Thursday, California’s top election official declined to remove Trump from the presidential primary ballot in the most populous U.S. state, defying pressure from fellow Democrats.
‘Attempted theft of an election’
Trump’s campaign quickly slammed Bellows’s decision as “attempted theft of an election and the disenfranchisement of the American voter” and called her a “virulent leftist and a hyper-partisan Biden-supporting Democrat.”
“These partisan election interference efforts are a hostile assault on American democracy,” campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung said in a statement, accusing President Joe Biden and Democrats of “relying on the force of government institutions to protect their grip on power.”
Cheung said Trump would appeal the decision.
Fellow Republicans jumped to Trump’s defense, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who is also seeking the party’s nomination.
“It opens up Pandora’s Box. Can you have a Republican Secretary of State disqualify Biden from the ballot?” he said.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine agreed.
“Maine voters should decide who wins the election – not a Secretary of State chosen by the Legislature,” she wrote on social media platform X.
A Democratic representative from Maine, Jared Golden, also said Trump should be on the ballot.
“I voted to impeach Donald Trump for his role in the Jan. 6th insurrection. I do not believe he should be re-elected as President of the United States,” Golden wrote on X. “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.”
The Maine decision comes as Trump remains the front-running Republican candidate to challenge Biden in next year’s vote.
The two are neck-and-neck in polls, and Biden has stepped up his attacks on his predecessor in recent weeks, saying Trump “certainly supported an insurrection. No question about it, none, zero.”
Biden recently told a campaign reception that “the greatest threat Trump poses is to our democracy. Because if we lose, we lose everything.”
He described Trump as “sitting there, watching it unfold on TV as a mob attacked the Capitol” in the assault by the Republican’s supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, aimed at overturning Trump’s loss to Biden.
The twice-impeached Republican former president continues to claim, without proof, that he is the rightful winner of the 2020 vote.
He is scheduled to go on trial in Washington in March for conspiring to overturn the results of the election, and also faces racketeering charges in Georgia for allegedly conspiring to upend the election results in the southern state after his defeat.
Maine and Colorado hold their nominating contests on March 5 – also known as “Super Tuesday” – when voters in more than a dozen states, including populous California and Texas, go to the polls.
Similar challenges have been filed in other states as well. Courts in Minnesota and Michigan recently ruled that Trump should stay on the ballot in those states. Another ruling is soon expected in Oregon.