Secretary of State David Scanlan said Wednesday there’s nothing to stop President Donald Trump from filing to run in the state's first-in-the-nation Republican presidential primary. At left is Patricia Lovejoy, senior deputy secretary of state, and at right is Erin Hennessy, deputy secretary of state. (Rick Green/Sentinel Staff)
CONCORD – There’s no legal reason to block Donald Trump from becoming an official candidate in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation Republican presidential primary next year, the N.H. secretary of state and the attorney general said Wednesday.
Lawsuits have been filed across the country, including in New Hampshire, contending that Trump’s attempts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden violate section three of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
That section bans those who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States from holding government office without the approval of two-thirds of the U.S. House and Senate.
“There is no mention in New Hampshire state statute that a candidate in a New Hampshire presidential primary can be disqualified using the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution referencing insurrection or rebellion,” Secretary of State David Scanlan said in a morning news conference in his office in the Statehouse.
“Similarly, there is nothing in the 14th Amendment that suggests exercising the provisions of that amendment should take place during the delegate selection process held by the different states.”
Scanlan said he would be watching to see how courts rule on efforts to keep Trump off election ballots, noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has ultimate authority to make a ruling that would apply to all states.
N.H. Attorney General John Formella sent a letter to Scanlan and state Ballot Law Commission Chairman Bradford Cook on Wednesday in response to their request for legal guidance. Formella and Scanlan are Republicans.
Formella said in the letter that state law does not give the secretary of state discretion to disqualify a candidate from being on the ballot, on grounds of engaging in an insurrection.
“There is nothing in the relevant statutes that empowers or permits the Secretary of State to engage in independent investigation or to conduct an adjudicative process related to a candidate’s qualifications under Section Three,” Formella said in the letter.
He also said there would be “serious due process concerns” if a secretary of state decided on their own to keep someone off the ballot on those grounds.
The filing period for candidates wishing to run in New Hampshire’s presidential primary is Oct. 11 through Oct. 27, Scanlan said Wednesday. No date has been set yet for the primary, but state law requires that it be the first held in the nation.
Trump is facing multiplecriminal charges in federal and state indictments related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which culminated in the Jan. 6 riot in the U.S. Capitol.
Bryant “Corky” Messner, a Trump-endorsed Republican attorney, who lost a U.S. Senate race in New Hampshire in 2020, has raised the issue publicly.
Messner said in an Aug. 22 radio interview with NH Today that the matter requires judicial review.
“I think what needs to happen here is that someone needs to take some action legally so this thing can get in front of the U.S. Supreme Court sooner rather than later to interpret this section,” he said.
New Hampshire is one of several states in which legal challenges have been filed seeking to block Trump as a 2024 presidential candidate.
Long-shot Republican presidential candidate, John Anthony Castro, of Texas, has filed such a suit in Merrimack Superior Court.
More than 80 N.H. Republican elected officials, including Senate President Jeb Bradley and House Speaker Sherman Packard, signed onto a letter this past Tuesday to Scanlan, calling for Trump to be granted ballot access during next year’s state presidential primary.
The letter calls potential legal efforts to bar the former president from the ballot “an absurd conspiracy theory” and “fraud against the will of the people.”
Rick Green can be reached at RGreen@KeeneSentinel.com or 603-355-8567
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