AK Dems Won’t Get Independents on Ballot

     JUNEAU, Alaska (CN) — An Alaska state court dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Alaska Democratic Party claiming the state bars candidates for statewide office not affiliated with the Democratic Party from appearing on the party’s primary ballot.
     After hearing oral arguments from both sides April 8 in Juneau, First Judicial District Judge Louis James Menendez ruled Monday that the state’s motion to dismiss the case is appropriate because “the Alaska Democratic Party change allowing Independent and non-affiliated candidates is only a proposed rule change at this point and time.”
     A final decision on the rule change will not be made until it is voted on and passed at the party’s statewide convention May 13-15.
     “Given that the deadline for candidates to be placed on the Democratic primary ballot is June 1, 2016, it is possible this issue will become ripe in between the upcoming state convention and the June 1 deadline for registration,” Menendez added.
     The Alaska Democratic Party sued the Last Frontier in February after Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott told party chairwoman Casey Steinau that state law didn’t permit independent candidates to run in the Democratic primary. The state moved to dismiss the case in March.
     “At this current time, any alleged conflict between Alaska Democratic Party’s rule and the relevant state statute is purely hypothetical,” Menendez wrote. “What the party is asking this court to do amounts to a request for an advisory opinion.”
     Menendez noted that “while Alaska’s standing rules are liberal this court should not issue advisory opinions or resolve abstract questions of law,” but rather decree on a “real and substantial controversy” as distinguished from “what the law would be upon a hypothetical state of facts.”
     Jake Hamburg, communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party told Courthouse News in an email that “the court has not addressed the merits of our case yet.”
     He added, “This morning we met with our legal team to discuss yesterday’s decision. We plan to appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court. It’s our hope to resolve this matter as quickly as possible.”
     At this time, only independent U.S. Senate candidate Margaret Stock, who is running against Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is known to be affected by Menendez’s ruling.

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