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Three challenges filed contesting Trump's eligibility for Maine's primary ballot

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally, July 29, 2023, in Erie, Pa. The indictment of Donald Trump for attempting to overturn his election defeat is a new front in what Joe Biden has described as the battle for American democracy. It's the issue that Biden has described as the most consequential struggle of his presidency. The criminal charges are a reminder of the stakes of next year's campaign, when Trump is hoping for a rematch with Biden.
Sue Ogrocki
AP file
Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally, July 29, 2023, in Erie, Pa.

Three challenges were filed with Maine election officials this week seeking to block former President Donald Trump's participation in the state's Republican primary in March.

Trump's campaign had successfully submitted the minimum 2,000 voter signatures to qualify for the March 5 presidential primary. But in three separate challenges filed on Thursday and Friday, five individuals allege that Trump is ineligible to run for office again.

Two of those challenges claim Trump violated the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits anyone from serving as president or in Congress if they swore an oath to support the Constitution and then subsequently "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the government.

The challengers focus on Trump's attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 elections and his involvement in the events of Jan. 6, 2020, when rioters tried to disrupt Congress immediately after Trump held a rally in Washington.

One of those challenges was filed by three former elected officials in Maine: former Republican state Sens. Kimberley Rosen of Bucksport and Tom Saviello of Wilton and former Portland Mayor Ethan Strimling, a Democrat.

"The Constitution commands that, having sworn an oath to 'preserve, protect and defend' it, and then having desecrated that oath by directing a violent mob to storm the Capitol while Congress was performing a core constitutional function essential to the transition of power, Trump is ineligible to hold any office under the United States, least of all the office of President," reads the challenge filed by attorney Benjamin Gaines on behalf of the three.

A third challenge takes a different approach, saying that because Trump maintains that he won re-election in 2020, he is ineligible to seek a third term as president. The 22nd Amendment states that "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice."

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows and Attorney General Aaron Frey had announced in Augustthat they would review Maine's ballot eligibility criteria in anticipation of potential challenges. While the pair did not say why they were conducting the review, some legal scholars had been raising questions about Trump's eligibility under the 14th Amendment and challenges were being prepared in other states.

The issue is already playing out in other states.

Colorado's Supreme Court, for instance,heard arguments earlier this week about whether Section 3 of the 14th Amendment bars Trump from holding office.

Maine voters will join their counterparts in more than a dozen states in casting votes in presidential primaries or caucuses on March 5, which is known as "Super Tuesday."

In addition to Trump, five other candidates qualified for the Republican presidential ballot in Maine. They are Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Vivek Ramaswamy, Doug Burgum and Ryan Binkley.

On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden faces on challenger — Minnesota Rep. Dean Phillips — on Maine's primary ballot.