Internal jostling for leadership of Florida’s Republican Party has shaken loose a revelation bolstering allegations the GOP regularly runs third-party candidates funded by “dark money” shadow groups to win elections.
In an email sent Tuesday to all Florida GOP committee members, former state representative and current Lee County Property Appraiser Matt Caldwell ripped the party’s leadership for failing to support incumbents and for placing elected state officials – including current chairperson Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota – in charge.
Caldwell, defeated by Democrat Nikki Fried in the 2018 state agriculture commissioner election by 6,753 votes, blamed his loss on the state party’s neglect.
“The most glaring difference in the loss for Ag. Commissioner was the lack of any 3rd party candidate” in his race against Fried as, he implied, the state party did for candidates in four other statewide races, including Gov. Ron DeSantis’ half-percent victory over Democrat Andrew Gillum.
In fact, he added, “Many of our victories can be attributed to 3rd Party candidates dividing the vote.”
While recruiting third-party or no party affiliation (NPA) candidates is not new and, under Florida’s campaign financing rules, not necessarily illegal, the Miami-Dade State Attorney Office is investigating at least one NPA candidate’s 2020 campaign and Democrats are demanding lawmakers reassess state campaign regulations.
The most notable example comes from Miami-Dade County’s Senate District 37 race, where NPA candidate Alex Rodriguez received 6,300 votes out of 215,000 ballots cast in an election won by 32 votes by Sen. Ileana Garcia, who unseated incumbent Democrat José Javier Rodríguez.
President Trump has talked in recent days with associates about forming a new political party, according to people familiar with the matter, an effort to exert continued influence after he leaves the White House.
Mr. Trump discussed the matter with several aides and other people close to him last week, the people said. The president said he would want to call the new party the “Patriot Party,” the people said.
Mr. Trump has feuded in recent days with several Republican leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), who on Tuesday said Mr. Trump deserved blame for provoking the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol. Polls show Mr. Trump retains strong support among rank-and-file GOP voters.
The White House declined to comment.
It’s unclear how serious Mr. Trump is about starting a new party, which would require a significant investment of time and resources. The president has a large base of supporters, some of whom were not deeply involved in Republican politics prior to Mr. Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The Green Party candidates for president and vice-president are demanding that the Wisconsin Supreme Court put them on the ballot today.
“The court should have made a decision by now. We want a decision today to put us on the ballot. We want the absentee ballot process to proceed without further delay,” said Howie Hawkins, the Green presidential candidate.
The delay in the printing of the absentee ballots that are supposed to be mailed out by September 17 was precipitated by objections by Democratic members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission (WEC). WEC staff certified that over 3,000 signatures on the Greens’ ballot petitions were from qualified voters, well over the 2,000 required.
However, Democrats objected that vice presidential candidate Angela Walker did not properly inform the WEC of her address change within her current home town of Florence, South Carolina. At an August 20 hearing on the the case, a motion to place the Greens on the ballot failed 3-3 in a partisan vote by the commissioners. The Greens appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Republican justices on the court bench hold a 4-3 majority.
“I filed my address change properly to the Wisconsin Elections Commission as they instructed me to when our campaign informed them of my address change. The Democrat chairing the hearing concerning Democratic objections to my filing prevented that documentation from being presented. They had that information in hand. The Democratic commissioners could have resolved the problem last month at the hearing. Instead, they are playing politics with Wisconsin voters. They could end this now by withdrawing their phony objections. The Democratic commissioners are as guilty as the Republican justices in this hold-up of absentee ballots,” said Angela Walker, the Greens’ vice presidential candidate.
Hawkins said the court’s request for information last Tuesday on whether ballots had been mailed is now moot. No ballots were mailed, according to reporting by the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal.
“The Republican-majority court has all the information it needs to place us on the ballot and let the absentee voting process move forward. The Democrats have all the information they need to know their case is baseless and drop it. It’s time for both parties stop this partisan jockeying at the expense of Wisconsin voters,” Hawkins said.
A federal judge on Tuesday upheld stricter ballot standards for political parties, dealing a blow to the Working Families Party and the SAM Party’s efforts to challenge the measure.
The new law, which had been paired with the creation of a system of publicly financed campaigns in the state, requires parties to receive at least 130,000 votes at the top of its ticket or 2% of all votes cast. The previous threshold was 50,000 votes for gubernatorial candidates.
The provision is expected to make it harder for smaller ballot lines like the WFP and SAM to maintain its ballot status in subsequent election cycles.
U.S. District Court Judge John Koeltl in the ruling found the WFP’s challenge “failed to demonstrate the likelihood of success on the merits of their claims that the New York Election Law provisions at issue are unconstitutional as applied to them, the WFP plaintiffs have failed to make the much higher showing required to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits of their facial challenge.”
From the unsigned order:
Once again in its appellate briefs the Board asks this court to reverse the district court’s decisions and permit the Board to determine the best options for balancing the, plaintiffs’ interests with the statutory ballot access requirements in Illinois. In doing so, the Board devotes not a word to addressing the harm this would cause to candidates and parties who have relied on the agreed preliminary injunction order. Nor does the Board explain how it would make the relevant determinations regarding ballot access, but any change made now, after the deadline for submitting signatures has passed, is certain to severely limit or prevent third-party or independent candidates from accessing the November ballot. The Supreme Court has instructed that federal courts should refrain from changing state election rules as an election approaches. See, e.g., Republican Nat’l Comm. v. Democratic Nat’l Comm., ––– U.S. –––, 140 S. Ct. 1205, 1207 (2020) (per curiam); Purcell v. Gonzalez, 549 U.S. 1, 4–5 (2006) (per curiam). In reviewing the claims before us, we decline to allow the Board to change the ballot-access requirements on the eve of the deadline for certifying the final contents of the ballot. Indeed, the Purcell principle takes on added force where, as here, the Board seeks to challenge injunctive relief that it initially agreed was necessary and proper. And only after engaging in meaningful delay, including in pursuing this appeal, did the Board change course and put at risk the reliance the plaintiffs have placed in the orders entered by the district court.
The saga of the Green Party’s ballot status in Montana’s 2020 election took yet another turn Tuesday, as two of its candidates and two Green Party voters filed suit in federal court to remain on the ballot.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Helena said a state judge’s order Friday to remove Green Party candidates from the Nov. 3 general election ballot improperly disenfranchises voters who chose them in the primary.
At least two people with links to Kanye West’s nascent presidential campaign are also active in Republican Party politics.
One of West’s electors in the state of Vermont will also be a delegate to the Republican National Convention in Charlotte. Chuck Wilton, one of the three electors West’s presidential campaign named in a filing submitted with the Vermont Secretary of State on Monday, was also elected by the Vermont Republican Party in May to serve as a delegate for President Trump at this year’s RNC.
Asked by Intelligencer if he was the same person who was listed as a delegate, Wilton replied, “Yup, that would be me.” He said that he had been involved in politics in Vermont for years, and had been connected to the West campaign “through political contacts.”
“Somebody said that Vermont needs electors for certain people and [it was] something I said that I’m more than willing to do,” Wilton explained. He described himself politically as “conservative libertarian/center right,” adding that he was “not disappointed with [Trump] but wanted to search out some more alternatives to him.” Wilton said that he thought West was “center right” just like him.
The Republican National Committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wilton was the second person with ties to the GOP to be linked to the West presidential campaign on Monday. A prominent Republican operative, Gregg Keller, was listed as the campaign’s point of contact in a filing with the Arkansas Secretary of State. Keller, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, is the former executive director of the American Conservative Union and has worked for a number of prominent Republican politicians including Mitt Romney and Josh Hawley.
The issue is in the hands of a judge, with Republicans wanting the Green Party on the ballot (to siphon votes from Democrats) and Democrats seeking to kick the Green Party off.
It’s unclear whether a bid by Amash would have a greater effect on Biden or on Trump. In 2019, a Detroit News poll found Biden leading Trump in Michigan, a state that has grown more uncertain for the president, by 12 points. With Amash as an option, Biden’s lead shrunk to six points, with some independents and Republicans moving away from the Democrat. But national polling of Amash has been sparse, and it’s unclear how many states the Libertarian Party will attain ballot access in as the coronavirus pandemic makes traditional signature-gathering impossible.
The latest podcast from Franita and Foley.