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Legal team appeals decision to remove Donald Trump from Maine's primary ballot

Former President Donald Trump reacts to supporters during a commit to caucus rally, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, in Waterloo, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall
AP file
Former President Donald Trump reacts to supporters during a commit to caucus rally, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023, in Waterloo, Iowa.

The legal team for Donald Trump has appealed the Maine secretary of state's decision to remove the former president from the state's presidential primary ballot.

In an appeal filed late Tuesday in Kennebec County Superior Court, Trump's attorneys argue that Secretary of State Shenna Bellows' move to bar him from the ballot was beyond her legal authority and that she acted in an "arbitrary and capricious manner."

The filing also asserts that Bellows, a Democrat, is biased and that she should have recused herself.

Bellows has asserted that Maine law required her to act on the challenge and that the Trump team's request for a recusal came too late in the process. She has also denied that her decision was based on her personal views of the former president or his conduct in the runup and during the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol nearly three years ago.

Bellows was reached before the appeal was filed, but anticipated that it was forthcoming.

"The court will make a determination. And whatever the court decides, I will implement it. That is my job as Maine’s chief elections official,” she said.

The appeal is the first step in a legal challenge that could go beyond Maine state courts. Before Bellows ruled that Trump was ineligible for the ballot, the Colorado Supreme Court made a similar determination that is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

A decision there will likely affect Bellows' decision because both rely on an interpretation of a post-Civil War section of the U.S. Constitution designed to prevent Confederates who engaged in an insurrection from running for office.

Bellows issued a short statement responding to the appeal, saying, "Under Maine law, an appeal of the decision to the Maine Superior Court is the next step in the process laid out in the Maine election law. I have confidence in my decision and in the rule of law. Everyone who serves in government has a duty and obligation to uphold the Constitution first above all."

In her ruling last week, Bellows suspended her decision until the courts have had a chance to review it.

Journalist Steve Mistler is Maine Public’s chief politics and government correspondent. He is based at the State House.