By Alex Shultz Sep 18, 2023 (SFGate.com)
Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives at the Monumental Leaders Rally hosted by the South Dakota Republican Party on Sept. 8, 2023, in Rapid City, S.D. Scott Olson/Getty Images
A group of Democratic lawmakers in California have asked state Attorney General Rob Bonta to expeditiously seek a court ruling on whether Donald Trump should be removed from California’s March primary ballot.
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In a letter obtained by Politico and the New York Times, nine California lawmakers reportedly wrote to Bonta that he as state attorney general is “uniquely positioned to proactively seek the court’s opinion to confirm Mr. Trump’s inability to hold office.” The lawmakers reportedly cited the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt and Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election as evidence that he’s potentially violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies politicians who’ve “engaged in insurrection or rebellion.” That section was originally directed at Confederate politicians after the Civil War, and is largely untested in more recent American history, according to the New York Times.
As California’s attorney general, Bonta has “automatic standing to proactively ask a court for declaratory relief, a process where a judge can quickly rule on an unresolved legal question,” Politico reported. Bonta’s office provided a statement to multiple outlets, confirming that he was taking the ask from Democratic lawmakers seriously: “We are aware of the letter and will review the request internally. There is no denying that Donald Trump has engaged in behavior that is unacceptable and unbecoming of any leader — let alone a president of the United States. Beyond that, we have no additional comment.”
A California court ruling against Trump’s eligibility would without a doubt compel appeals from Trump’s camp in the lead-up to the state’s March 5 primary. If the case is ultimately appealed to the Supreme Court, then Trump would be arguing before a likely sympathetic 6-to-3 conservative majority on the bench.
In the unlikely event that California lawmakers and Bonta are successful in booting Trump from the state’s primary, it could reshape the entire presidential election. The California GOP recently amended its primary rules in a way that helps the former president: A candidate who eclipses 50% of the vote is now slated to receive all 169 of California’s delegates, which is the most up for grabs of any state. Sans Trump, the rest of the GOP field could pick up some meaningful delegates of their own, and make it more difficult for him to reach the 1,234 delegate threshold required to become the Republican Party’s presidential candidate.
A recent Berkeley IGS Poll put Trump’s support among Republican voters in California at 55%. If that number held come the primary, it would be enough to cross the 50% figure required to snag all of California’s ultra-valuable 169 delegates. Trump is scheduled to speak at a California Republican Party convention in Anaheim on Sept. 29.
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Sep 18, 2023
By Alex Shultz
Alex Shultz is the politics editor for SFGATE. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.