R.I. GOP defends Trump’s right to appear on 2024 ballot in Colorado
The Rhode Island GOP has joined with Republican parties in 12 other states defending former President Donald Trump’s constitutional right to appear on the 2024 ballot in Colorado.
The brief filed Nov. 30 in Colorado Supreme Court comes as the state’s highest court prepares to hear oral arguments this week on the disputed outcome of a lower court ruling.
Last month, a Denver District Court judge agreed with Colorado voters who claim that Trump “engaged in insurrection” for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, attacks on the Capitol, but did not conclude that those actions barred him from running for – or appearing on the ballot for – president.
The 28-page “friend of the court” brief filed by GOP officials in 13 states, including Rhode Island, argues that only the state parties, not the court nor the Secretary of State, have the power to decide presidential nominees. While the case only applies to Trump’s eligibility to appear on Colorado’s presidential primary ballot, barring him “unquestionability lessened” his viability as a candidate and the power of the Republican parties in other states, the brief stated.
Joe Powers, Rhode Island GOP chairman, framed the matter as one of constitutional integrity, rather than support for Trump.
“It has nothing to do with Trump and has everything to do with the court’s intervening on who and who cannot be on the ballot,” Powers said in an interview on Monday. “I don’t care who it is.”
Pressed on whether he would say the same if a Democratic candidate’s ballot eligibility was in question, Powers insisted he would, though he acknowledged, “I wouldn’t be as vocal about it because, c’mon, this is still politics.”
Powers also described the Rhode Island GOP’s involvement as part of its comeback from a series of losses for state and local races, including Republican Gerry Leonard Jr., who lost the Nov. 7 special congressional election to Democrat Gabe Amo.
“The way I look at it, and the way the Republican Party comes back from such losses is to make sure people understand we’re out for them, we’re not out for blood,” Powers said.
Yet the Rhode Island GOP did not get involved when a similar question over Trump’s eligibility came to its own backyard, with a separate case seeking to oust Trump from Rhode Island’s 2024 primary ballot filed in U.S. District Court in October.
A federal judge ultimately dismissed the complaint brought by John Anthony Castro, a Republican write-in candidate from Texas. Powers said he did not consider the Rhode Island legal challenge to be as serious or legitimate as the one in Colorado.
Rhode Island and Maine were the only New England states whose Republican parties joined the brief filed in Colorado Supreme Court. Most of the 13 states signing on to the friend of the court brief are Republican-leaning.
The Colorado Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case starting Wednesday, Dec. 6.