Jan 18, 2024 - News

Before No Labels, Green Party tried and failed to block unwanted candidates

Illustration of a voting booth with a gavel printed on the side.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A federal judge's ruling that political parties can decide which offices their candidates run for likely would've been welcome news to the Arizona Green Party, which unsuccessfully challenged supposedly fraudulent candidates in 2010.

Context: U.S. District Court Judge John Tuchi ruled Tuesday that it would violate the First Amendment free association rights of the No Labels Party of Arizona if Secretary of State Adrian Fontes allowed its candidates to run for offices the party didn't intend to seek.

  • No Labels told the secretary's office it plans to run candidates only for president and VP.
  • Several people last year filed to run as No Labels candidates for other offices, and the party sued to block Fontes from putting them on the ballot.

Flashback: In perhaps one of Arizona's most bizarre political episodes, a former Republican state lawmaker named Steve May recruited "street people" in 2010 to run as Green Party candidates.

  • The Green Party sued in federal court to remove the "sham" candidates from the ballot.
  • The Arizona Democratic Party, which alleged the candidates were intended to siphon votes from them, filed a separate lawsuit in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Details: Judge David Campbell rejected the Green Party's arguments that same year, ruling the so-called sham candidates didn't violate its constitutional right to free association.

  • Political parties frequently deal with candidates who don't fully share their views and platforms, the judge said.
  • "They retain their right to vote, their right to speak, their right to campaign and organize. Although the statute arguably burdens their associational rights by requiring them to tolerate candidates they do not support, that burden … is not uncommon in political parties," Campbell wrote.

Meanwhile, Superior Court Judge Dean Fink ruled against the Democratic Party days later.

  • Fink had "no hesitation" in concluding the candidates were recruited in bad faith for the purpose of damaging Democrats' election prospects, but he upheld their right to run because they'd gotten on the ballot legally and seemed to have a legitimate desire to run.
  • The judge said he would've kicked one candidate off the ballot if he hadn't withdrawn from the race first because he had been caught on tape admitting he was running to pull votes from Democrats.

Of note: One of the 2010 candidates challenged by the Green Party, Richard Grayson, has filed to run for Corporation Commission as a No Labels candidate.

Zoom out: The Green Party didn't appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit, so the case created no precedent for the ongoing controversy surrounding No Labels.

  • Fontes plans to appeal the No Labels ruling.

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