Ex-Republican who left over Trump allowed to run as independent in race to replace Chaffetz

Ex-Republican who left over Trump allowed to run as independent in race to replace Chaffetz
© Haiyun Jiang

A federal judge in Utah has ordered state election officials to allow a third party and its candidate on the ballot for the November special election to replace former Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzDem demands documents from TSA after scathing security report Chaffetz replacement sworn in as House member Democrats expand House map after election victories MORE (R-Utah).

In his ruling, first reported by The Salt Lake Tribune, District Judge David Nuffer said "the state’s interests do not require or justify effectively barring" the United Utah Party (UUP) and its candidate Jim Bennett from inclusion on the ballot.

Utah's lieutenant governor's office had initially blocked Bennett's name from appearing on the ballot, because the newly formed United Utah Party had not yet qualified as an official party before candidates' filing deadline. 

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The party met the requirements for qualifications earlier this week, according to the Tribune.

But Nuffer said the lieutenant governor's office could have certified the UUP faster than it did, which could have allowed the party to meet the filing deadline.

“The election office was not required to take 30 days to review the UUP petition," he wrote. "But it did, even though the work could have been completed in two days."

Bennett's lawyers argued that state election officials did not anticipate having to certify a new political party when it came up with an election schedule.

“If what one has to do to get on the ballot is be a soothsayer, that’s a pretty high burden,” attorney Bryan Sells told the Tribune.

What’s more, Nuffer said that because Bennett is his party’s only congressional hopeful, he would not have to participate in the state’s Aug. 15 primary election and could go straight into the general election.

Chaffetz, the former chairman of the powerful House Oversight Committee, resigned from the chamber at the end of June, more than a year and a half before his term was set to expire.

Bennett, who was previously a registered Republican, left the party last year after then-GOP candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Democrat slams Donald Trump Jr. for ‘serious case of amnesia’ after testimony Skier Lindsey Vonn: I don’t want to represent Trump at Olympics Poll: 4 in 10 Republicans think senior Trump advisers had improper dealings with Russia MORE won the party's presidential nomination.