Greene court victory delivers latest blow to insurrection disqualification effort
Left-wing efforts to disqualify some Republican members of Congress from seeking reelection on the basis that they engaged in insurrection related to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack suffered another blow on Friday with Georgia officials finding that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) is in the clear to seek a second term.
Five voters in Greene’s district, working with liberal activists and scholars, challenged her candidacy by arguing that she engaged in an insurrection with her rhetoric in the lead-up to the Capitol riot. On the witness stand in April, Greene repeatedly said she did not recall making such comments, that she called for a peaceful demonstration and that she was unaware of plans for violence.
The Friday decision rejecting the Georgia voters’ challenge is the latest in a string of efforts to disqualify candidates over ties to the Jan. 6 riot that have fallen flat.
A judge in March blocked a challenge to Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s (R-N.C.) candidacy on similar grounds, after challengers argued that his involvement with former President Trump’s “Stop the Steal” Ellipse rally on Jan. 6 made him ineligible for office.
Voting rights nonprofit Free Speech for People, which is behind both the Greene and Cawthorn challenges, also tried to keep Reps. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) off the ballot based on Jan. 6. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge dismissed those complaints last month, saying that plaintiffs did not have the legal authority to challenge their candidacies.
The disqualification clause in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, adopted after the Civil War, says that those who previously took an oath to the Constitution and then “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” may not hold office.
A number of House Democrats, including members of the House select committee formed to investigate the Capitol attack, have explored using the disqualification clause to bar Trump or other Republicans from holding future office.
State Administrative Law Judge Charles Beaudrot rejected Free Speech for People’s challenge to Greene and transmitted his decision to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who sided with the lawmaker. Free Speech for People says it plans to appeal the decision to the Georgia Superior Court.
Greene celebrated the decision by repeating the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
“Democrats stole the 2020 presidential election by abusing and breaking our laws. Thankfully this attempt to rig another election was stopped in its tracks,” she said in a statement Friday.
But none of the representatives facing challenges to their candidacies are definitively in the clear.
The challenge to Cawthorn advanced to a federal appeals court, which heard arguments on Tuesday. An attorney representing both Cawthorn and Greene, James Bopp, argued that only Congress can decide whether a candidate is qualified for Congress.
“The left can’t beat MAGA warriors at the ballot box. If they could, they wouldn’t be trying to remove them from the ballot and disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of voters,” Cawthorn said in a statement Friday. “They lost in Georgia and they will lose in North Carolina. Our elections are not decided through lawfare — the people decide.”
Free Speech for People has said it also plans to appeal the decision on its challenges to Biggs and Gosar, saying in a statement that Friday’s decision “gives a pass to political violence as a tool for disrupting and overturning free and fair elections.”
A liberal super PAC has also filed a lawsuit on behalf of 10 Wisconsin residents seeking to disqualify GOP members in Wisconsin. Sen. Ron Johnson and Reps. Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Tiffany, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported, spread “malicious falsehoods about a ‘rigged election'” leading up to Jan. 6 and “engaged in a conspiracy whose illegal objective was to hijack the Joint Session on January 6, 2021 in order to permit the presentation of knowingly false and fraudulent slates of electors.”
Greene has a primary on May 24, Cawthorn’s primary is on May 17, the Arizona primary for Biggs and Gosar is on Aug. 2 and Wisconsin’s primary is Aug. 9.
The Georgia congresswoman received ample support from top House GOP officials on the day of her hearing.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who has in the past been critical of Greene’s rhetoric, said in a tweet that the challenge to her candidacy was “undemocratic & un-American.” House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) said in a statement that the effort was “nothing more than a political circus designed to remove a law-abiding conservative leader from the ballot.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story. Updated at 5:50 p.m.
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