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Trump campaign challenges Maine's move to omit him from the Republican primary ballot

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

The decision by Maine's top election official to remove former President Trump from the Republican primary ballot has thrust the small state into the national political spotlight. Trump's campaign is challenging that decision, and it's already appealed a similar ruling from the state of Colorado to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kevin Miller is statehouse correspondent with Maine Public and joins us now from the capital, Augusta. Hi, Kevin.

KEVIN MILLER, BYLINE: Hi, Juana.

SUMMERS: So Kevin, I understand that this was a big topic of discussion in Maine's Statehouse, where you are right now.

MILLER: Yeah, that's right. So state lawmakers were back for the first time this year, and people were definitely talking about it. Secretary of State Shenna Bellows determined that Trump's actions leading up to the January 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, that they violated the Constitution's insurrection clause. And she said that makes him ineligible to run for the state's primary, which is in just about two months away on Super Tuesday.

But Republicans say that Bellows, who's a Democrat, was pretty much biased from the start. I saw some impeach Bellows signs around the Statehouse today, and most of the Republican caucus members turned out for a press conference where leaders really blasted Bellows. And here is Representative Billy Bob Faulkingham.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BILLY BOB FAULKINGHAM: This is a terrifying, terrifying and disastrous decision that you could see copied by other secretary of states in other states that would throw our nation into absolute pandemonium.

MILLER: Yeah. And what they're suggesting here is that Maine's Democratic - that if Maine's Democratic secretary of state can do this against Trump, what's to stop a Republican election official in another state from removing Biden or other Democrats from the ballot?

SUMMERS: Right. And, Kevin, clearly, there are some Republicans who are accusing her of making a politically motivated decision. What else are you hearing from them?

MILLER: Well, they say that she's unfit for office, and they're hoping for an impeachment vote as early as next week. But that's really unlikely to go anywhere because Democrats control both chambers of the legislature here.

SUMMERS: Right. And what about Bellows? How has she been responding to this criticism?

MILLER: Yeah. Well, first off, she says she's concerned about the level of threats she's received and harassment of her family and her staff. But when it comes to the actual ruling, she says that she was pretty much only carrying out her obligation as secretary of state. Maine's law allows voters to formally challenge whether a candidate should be on a ballot. And five people, which included two Republicans, did that this time around. She held a hearing. She heard arguments. And ultimately, she ruled that Trump was ineligible under this post-Civil War amendment that was aimed at keeping Confederate military leaders from holding public office. And here's what Bellows said yesterday when I asked her about that impeachment push.

SHENNA BELLOWS: This suggestion of impeachment is a political fight to distract people's attention from the legal issues. It's a complete sham. I am confident I followed the law and did my duty under the law.

MILLER: But I'll just add that this is the first time that Maine's law has been used for a presidential candidate.

SUMMERS: In a sentence or two - yesterday, Trump appealed her decision. What comes next?

MILLER: So it goes to Maine's Superior Court and potentially to Maine's highest court, but ultimately, probably will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

SUMMERS: That's Kevin Miller with Maine Public. Thank you, Kevin.

MILLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kevin Miller

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