Baird’s would-be challenger awaits judge's ruling after GOP boots him from ballot
Lawyer in primary ballot law challenge: ‘Charlie’s not asking to be made congressman. He’s asking to run against a powerful incumbent.’
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AFTER REPUBLICANS DENY HIM ACCESS TO BALLOT, BOOKWALTER ARGUES LAW UNCONSTITUTIONAL, AWAITS JUDGE’S RULING
An attorney for Charles Bookwalter, a would-be 4th District candidate booted from the Republican congressional primary, argued Friday that the Indiana law the party used to challenge his candidacy makes the path to the ballot too steep.
Trent Trueblood, Bookwalter’s attorney, argued in a Marion County court Friday that the state law that tied party membership to voting at least twice in primaries was unconstitutional. He said the law was there simply as an angle to protect incumbents, putting what amounts to a four-year waiting period into effect for anyone who is moved to run for public office – if officials in their party don’t want them on the ballot in certain races.
Trueblood said there was no question from anyone that Bookwalter is a Republican; the Thorntown businessman and former Green Beret will be on the Boone County ballot as a delegate to the Republican state convention. Trueblood asked Marion Superior Court 4 Judge Cynthia Ayers for an emergency stay that would allow Bookwalter’s name to be on the May 3 primary ballot in the 4th District against U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, a congressman seeking his third two-year term.
Defending the Indiana Election Commission and its Feb. 18 ruling that Bookwalter did meet the threshold to get on the ballot, Courtney Abshire, a deputy attorney general, argued that Bookwalter’s emergency request came too late. The last chance to finalize county ballots was March 14, according to deadlines set by federal law. That’s the same date Bookwalter filed his lawsuit. Abshire said hundreds of ballots already had gone out to military members and others registered to vote in the 4th District, which includes Tippecanoe County and its neighboring counties.
She also argued that the sorts of discretion party leaders took when they ignored Bookwalter’s request for necessary signatures and certification was allowed under a law that gave parties the right to “select a standard bearer who best represents the party’s ideologies and preferences.”
Trueblood contended during an hourlong hearing that the law was ripe for a larger constitutional challenge. He asked Ayers to settle it Friday.
“(The election) can and should be worked out by the voters in District 4,” Trueblood said. “Charlie’s not asking to be made congressman. He’s asking to run against a powerful incumbent. Frankly, he’s probably not going to win, but he’d like to be on the ballot. And I think there’s voters who would like to vote for him. I absolutely believe this law is crazy.”
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