Sunday, August 14, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Three Arizona GOP lawmakers slapped with candidate disqualification actions over Jan. 6 ties

The plaintiffs must prove the lawmakers either participated in an insurrection or aided insurrectionists per section three of the 14th Amendment.

(CN) — Arizona voters filed challenges Thursday to the reelection eligibility of three Republican lawmakers, claiming they should not appear on ballots for the state's primary due to their support or participation in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The three lawsuits filed in Maricopa County Superior Court come just over three months ahead of Arizona’s GOP primaries on Aug. 2.

The complaints target U.S. Representatives Paul Gosar and Andy Biggs and state Representative Mark Finchem, a Republican from Oro Valley. All three have been vocal supporters of Donald Trump and have claimed that he was the true winner of the 2020 presidential election.

The lawsuits come a day after Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich released interim findings to the Arizona Senate on his election integrity investigation. His report stopped short of implicating anyone of fraud but left the door open for legal prosecution concerning the use of private grants during the election.

Free Speech For People, a non-profit legal group representing the voters, has previously filed similar complaints against U.S. Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison Cawthorn. The challenge to Cawthorn failed, but the one against Greene is ongoing.

To Democrats in Arizona, the suit against Finchem is a significant one. Finchem, a Trump-endorsed candidate running for Arizona Secretary of State, could exercise a broad range of power over the state’s elections as the state’s chief elections officer if voted into office.

The 32-page lawsuit against Finchem alleges that he, along with Biggs and Gosar, promoted, organized and planned a violent protest ahead of Jan. 6’s electoral certification process.

“Finchem was engaged with the January 6 attack by being in close contact with the planners of the Wild Protest, including throughout the day on January 6, and by participating in the attack with the advance knowledge that it was substantially likely to lead to the attack,” according to the complaint.

The lawsuit additionally claims Finchem directed protesters to dissent in a way that would likely break the law.

“Finchem joined the insurrectionists mob outside the Capitol and encouraged the insurrectionists as they stormed the Capitol in an effort to disrupt an essential constitutional function and the peaceful transition of power,” the complaint says.

For Biggs, the allegations implicate him in aiding the attack.

“Biggs was involved in either planning the attack on January 6, or, alternatively, the planning of the pre-attack demonstration and/or march on the Capitol with the advance knowledge that it was substantially likely to lead to the attack, and otherwise voluntarily aided the insurrection,” the complaint against Biggs says.

The lawsuits against Gosar and the others claim the three lawmakers violated section three of the Fourteenth Amendment, which states no governmental official “shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Paul Weich, an attorney running for the Arizona House of Representatives, told Courthouse News that challenges to political candidacy are heard on an expedited basis in Arizona.

“Like every state, Arizona has laws about the qualifications of a candidate to hold elected office and how many petition signatures they need to get on the ballot,” Weich said. “However, unlike many other states, Arizona leaves it to voters to enforce those qualifications and signatures, and only gives them a two-week window to file a lawsuit. And judges only have two more weeks to make a decision. It makes for some crazy cases.”

Finchem and his counterparts Gosar and Biggs filed their qualifying signatures for office on or before the Apr. 4 deadline. This gave voters an Apr. 18 deadline to file their suit.

The suits list 10 “qualified electors” or voters as the plaintiffs.

Co-defendants included Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Maricopa County Board Of Supervisors, Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer, the Pinal County Board Of Supervisors and Pinal County Recorder Virginia Ross.

Finchem took to Twitter in response to the suit.

“I am in good company,” said Finchem in response to a tweet naming him Biggs and Gosar as defendants. “And this is desperate.”

Conservative lawyers have pointed to the last sentence of the disqualification clause to illustrate the duty is of congress, not the courts to enact the disqualification. That clause states, “Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

Detractors argue a suit would be the first step in enacting a removal.

The offices for Biggs, Gosar and Finchem were contacted for comment, but they did not immediately respond to media inquiries.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...