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Wednesday, July 10, 2024 | Back issues
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No Labels party asks federal judge to block candidates from using its name to run for office

At least one of the five political candidates running under the No Labels Party is trying to sabotage the group, which Democrats say is only to siphon support from Joe Biden.

PHOENIX (CN) — The No Labels party of Arizona asked a federal judge Friday to bar political candidates from using the newly established party to run for state-level offices. 

Despite the stated mission of the party —  to provide American voters with an alternative presidential option, in the likely case that the 2024 General Election comes down to Joe Biden vs. Donald Trump — five people have filed notices of interest to run under the No Labels party in non-presidential races. 

Party officials say Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes’ refusal to bar those candidates from running under the party violates state law, as well as the party’s constitutional rights. 

“The question is whether the secretary can force No Labels to run candidates it wants nothing to do with,” attorney Andrew Pappas told U.S. District Judge John Tuchi during the Friday morning hearing. “The answer is ‘no.’”

Pappas cited Arizona law 16-301(a), which requires political parties to nominate candidates it wants to be on a general election ballot. Because the law says a party is to nominate candidates “if it desires,” he argued that No Labels doesn’t have to run candidates in all races — only the ones it chooses to. 

The law doesn’t bar candidates from running under a party without the party state committee’s approval. 

Kara Karlson, defending Fontes, told Tuchi that the party did decide in this case to run for other offices, because the party members isn't limited to those in charge of it. 

“Registered members of the No Labels party in Arizona,” she said. “That’s the party. Not just the state committee. Not just No Labels Inc.,” the national umbrella. 

No Labels could have run only in the presidential race, Karlson argued, if its preferred candidates chose to run as independents and just communicated to voters what their goals are. But by registering as a party, she said, No Labels subjected itself to state regulations. 

Fontes interpreted the law differently than No Labels. The law says a party shall nominate candidates for “all” offices, not just president, he reasoned.

“I have a fair amount of ear to the secretary’s argument that you’re not really giving the statute a fair reading,” Tuchi told Pappas. 

No Labels claims a constitutional violation as well.

“Forcing a minor party to compete in races it wants nothing to do with imposes a severe burden on associational rights,” Pappas said. 

Fontes argues that associational rights, protected by the First Amendment, are “not absolute.”

“Its First Amendment rights cannot be used as a sword to cut off the First Amendment rights of others,” Fontes said in his response to the party’s lawsuit. 

Karlson said there wasn't a constitutional violation because the party would endure no penalty from other candidates using the party to run.

“No Labels does not suffer harm if their own members vote in their own primaries for their own candidates,” she said. 

Pappas argued that allowing other candidates to run under the party would force the party to divert resources and “turn away from its goals.”

But, as always, more politics are at play. 

No Labels advertises itself as an independent party, meant to provide an alternative from the traditional Democratic-versus-Republican voting framework. But Democrats say it's only attempting to siphon votes from Biden, ensuring a Trump victory.

At least one candidate, Richard Grayson, running for Arizona corporation commissioner to challenge an incumbent Republican, is outwardly trying to disrupt the party. He called his bid a “performance art piece,” intending to sabotage the party and force it to reveal its donors, who’ve so far raised more than $60 million for the 2024 General Election.

The party says it doesn’t have to disclose its donors because it’s registered as a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, and has cited privacy as its reason for choosing not to do so.

So far, the party hasn’t even indicated whether it will nominate presidential candidates for 2024. 

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Categories / Courts, First Amendment, Law, Politics, Regional, Trials

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