WASHINGTON (CN) – A self-made millionaire who ran for president in 2016 scored an early court victory Friday when a federal judge advanced his race-discrimination lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee.
Willie Wilson and his campaign sued last year in Washington, D.C., federal court alleging that the DNC favored Hillary Clinton and other white candidates like Bernie Sanders, and denied him access to DNC voter data.
U.S. District Judge Trevor McFadden found the allegation sound enough to survive the DNC’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
“It is reasonable to infer from their pleadings that the DNC provided this contract opportunity to Bernie Sanders—a white candidate who was similarly situated,” the 14-page opinion says.
But McFadden noted that Wilson, a resident of Hillcrest, Illinois, has yet to actually prove that racial animus belied his exclusion.
In an amended complaint filed Jan. 2, Wilson suggested the DNC did not want to expose voters to the substance of Wilson’s values and platform, which McFadden said offers another explanation for the way the DNC treated his campaign.
Wilson’s attorney, Donald Temple, did not immediately respond Friday to an email seeking comment on the ruling.
Perkins Coie attorneys Bruce Spiva and Elisabeth Frost, who represent the DNC, likewise did not respond to a request for comment.
Wilson has also claimed the DNC blocked him from participating in events it sponsored.
On that front, McFadden advanced Wilson’s conspiracy claim against the DNC insofar as it relates to his exclusion from a South Carolina campaign event the DNC co-sponsored on Jan. 17, 2016.
Wilson said individuals who appeared to be with the Secret Service and assigned to Hillary Clinton prevented him from joining the other candidates on stage, and that DNC officials did not intervene on his behalf.
McFadden said Wilson’s allegations about the event are enough for the claim to survive, despite the DNC’s insistence that its failure to intervene falls short of proving a conspiracy. The DNC also argued that interfering with the Secret Service while carrying out their duties amounts to a felony.
These arguments failed to persuade McFadden.
“It is unlikely that the Secret Service acted independently of the campaign event’s sponsors in determining who should have access to the stage,” the ruling states. “And if DNC officials had not wished to keep Mr. Wilson off the stage, they likely could have explained to the Secret Serve–or Mrs. Clinton–that Mr. Wilson was an invited candidate without committing a felony.”
At this stage in the litigation, McFadden said Wilson has adequately alleged a conspiracy between the Secret Service and the DNC to intimidate him.