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Federal court rejects long-shot attempt to remove Trump from SC’s primary ballots

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Federal court rejects long-shot attempt to remove Trump from SC’s primary ballots

Feb 02, 2024 | 6:59 pm ET
By Abraham Kenmore
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Federal court rejects long-shot attempt to remove Trump from SC’s primary ballots
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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he wraps up a campaign event on Dec. 19, 2023, in Waterloo, Iowa. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

COLUMBIA — A federal court has denied a would-be candidate’s request to remove former President Donald Trump from South Carolina’s GOP presidential primary ballot.

The legal challenge to Trump was brought by John Castro, a tax preparer from Texas who is running as a long-shot candidate in other states’ Republican primary. Castro argued that Trump violated a 14th Amendment prohibition on insurrection, based on his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.

A man in a dark suit jacket and yellow tie stands in front of an American flag
Longshot candidate John Anthony Castro is suing to keep Donald Trump off the South Carolina Republican primary ballot – and to secure his own spot on it (provided by John Anthony Castro)

Castro himself will not appear on South Carolina’s primary ballot, however, since he didn’t pay the $50,000 candidate registration fee. His lawsuit also challenged the constitutionality of that fee.

This week, the U.S. District Court in South Carolina declined to either remove Trump or find the fee unconstitutional. It did not, however, rule on a motion to dismiss the case entirely. Castro has filed notice of an appeal.

Trump’s campaign accused Castro of working with Biden.

“The allies of Crooked Joe are desperately flailing in their attempts to deprive the voters of their right to vote for the candidate of their choice, President Donald J. Trump,” his campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said Friday in a statement.

“We believe a fair ruling by the Supreme Court in the Colorado case will shut down these ’14th Amendment’ hoaxes once and for all,” he continued.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments next week on whether Trump should appear on Colorado’s 2024 presidential primary ballot. Their decision will come in the wake of the Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling that the Republican frontrunner is ineligible to hold office under a Civil War-era insurrection clause.

For his part, Castro shrugged off the ruling as an acknowledgement that he’d already missed the deadline to appear on the primary ballot.

The judge is avoiding a “ruling on the obvious: the $50,000 filing fee is an unconstitutional burden on ballot access,” he said in an email to the SC Daily Gazette.

Castro said he initially sent in a check for $50,000 and then canceled it when he realized it might not give him a clear right to continue the lawsuit. The South Carolina Republican Party said the check was marked “insufficient funds” and they had to pay a $35 fee.

Castro has been charged with preparing false tax returns in a federal criminal case unrelated to his election lawsuits. He faces 33 felony counts for allegedly promising clients of his tax business that he would illegally help them get a higher tax refund than they were entitled to, according to a report in the New York Times.