Republicans decry ruling disqualifying Trump from Colorado’s primary ballot

· Dec. 20, 2023, 7:32 am
Trump Campaigns In Colorado SpringsTrump Campaigns In Colorado SpringsHart Van Denburg/CPR News
President Donald Trump campaigns in Colorado Springs, Feb. 20, 2020.

Updated at 12:30 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2023.

Colorado’s elected officials and political activists reacted swiftly to Tuesday’s ruling barring former president Trump from the GOP primary ballot next spring.

“This is the wrong decision,” wrote Republican Congressman Ken Buck on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Voters deserve to decide who they do or don’t support.”

The argument that the ruling unfairly takes away a choice that should remain with voters was echoed by Buck’s GOP colleague, Rep. Lauren Boebert.

“This is extreme judicial activism that is designed to suppress the vote and voices of hundreds of thousands of Coloradans, which is absolutely unacceptable,” she tweeted, calling the ruling a “horrible decision.”

For his part, U.S. House Speaker Michael Johnson described the decision as “reckless.”

“Today’s ruling attempting to disqualify President Trump from the Colorado ballot is nothing but a thinly veiled partisan attack. Regardless of political affiliation, every citizen registered to vote should not be denied the right to support our former president and the individual who is the leader in every poll of the Republican primary,” said Johnson.

The Colorado Republican Party, which wasn’t originally part of the lawsuit but was allowed to intervene by the district court judge, announced Tuesday evening it is filing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“While we all know the radical Democrats in full charge of Colorado will always stoop to new lows to force their disdain for the people’s will on the rest of America, we are glad they are exposing themselves for the immoral tyrants they truly are,” wrote Chair Dave Williams in an email to supporters.

The leadership of the state party is promising to drop out of the primary system and instead choose their presidential candidate via the caucus process if the Supreme Court doesn't reinstate Trump on the ballot.

However, almost universally, Republican officials and analysts predicted the Colorado ruling will not stand.

“I look forward to this case going to federal courts that understand the Constitution so they can overturn this decision,” tweeted Rep. Doug Lamborn, who took the opportunity to note that the state Supreme Court also disqualified him from the ballot five years ago, before that ruling was thrown out by a federal judge.

Asked about the ruling while traveling Wednesday, President Joe Biden said it's “self-evident” that Trump is an insurrectionist for trying to overturn his 2020 election loss but stopped short of commenting directly on the ruling.

“Whether the 14th Amendment applies or not, we’ll let the court make that decision," Biden told reporters on the tarmac in Milwaukee after stepping off Air Force One. "But he certainly supported an insurrection. There’s no question about it. None. Zero. And he seems to be doubling down on it.”

Few of Colorado's Democratic lawmakers rushed to share their views on the decision. Rep. Jason Crow declared the court got it right.

“The Constitution protects the right to vote and bars candidates who abuse the process or engage in insurrection,” he wrote. “Donald Trump has done both.”

Senator John Hickenlooper struck a defiant note in the face of any future Supreme Court ruling.

“Regardless of whether Trump is on the ballot or not, he won’t win in Colorado. We will not budge for his bigotry.”

However, Conservative analyst Kelly Maher warned that the whole lawsuit could well end up benefiting Trump by giving new ammunition to his claim that he’s being unfairly targeted by his opponents.

“Nobody who was going to vote for him won't as a result of this, and now when he gets up on stage and says that ‘they're"’trying to game the system against him - he will be right. This kind of play pushes voters on the margins into Trump's camp,” wrote Maher on X.

One Colorado legal expert noted, though, that however the case finally plays out at the national level, the fact that the voters who brought this lawsuit won in state courts has already set a precedent for future eligibility cases.

“The Colorado Supreme Court has the final say on all state law questions, meaning that its interpretation of the Colorado election code is now the law in Colorado,” said Holland and Hart litigation partner Jessica Smith. “This includes its conclusions that the election code allows electors to challenge whether a candidate is qualified to appear on Colorado ballots and that courts have the power to hear those challenges.”

Aamer Madhani and Chris Megerian of the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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