Pa. political activist files lawsuit to keep Trump off Republican primary ballot

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A longtime Dauphin County political activist has filed a federal lawsuit to try and keep former President Donald Trump off the Republican primary ballot next year in Pennsylvania.

Gene Stilp, a Middle Paxton Township Democrat, filed his suit against Trump in Harrisburg on Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District.

Stilp’s argument is based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which bars anyone from holding office who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the United States, but also says that Congress “may” vote by a two-thirds majority in each chamber to do so.

“It gave me great pleasure (Thursday) to put my filing in an envelope, address it to Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago in Florida and send it off,” Stilp said Friday. “Actually suing Donald Trump gave me great pleasure.”

Chatter about using the 14th Amendment to keep Trump off state ballots has increased in recent weeks after two conservative law professors concluded that Trump’s actions during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol amounted to insurrection, according to a New York Times story on Wednesday reporting on a similar lawsuit filed in Colorado state court.

The Times also reported that Free Speech for People, a liberal group, asked the secretaries of state in Florida, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio and Wisconsin to keep Trump off their ballots, and that an “obscure” Republican presidential candidate has filed a lawsuit in New Hampshire to ban Trump.

PennLive contacted the Trump campaign, but did not receive a response.

  • READ MORE: Groups want to use Constitution’s insurrection clause to block Trump from 2024 ballots

Stilp said that he expects more cases like his will be filed and that eventually they will be combined into one case that goes before the U.S. Supreme Court, where conservatives hold a 6-3 advantage.

The evidence against Trump, who faces four criminal indictments, is solid, Stilp said, particularly Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against the former president for taking and mishandling classified documents from the White House.

Trump also watched on Jan. 6 as a mob of his supporters, who had attended a rally he had addressed earlier, stormed the Capitol and assaulted officers, Stilp said.

“Once you light the fuse, you can’t control the outcome and when he could control the outcome, he didn’t,” said Stilp.

Stilp suggested that those doubting the merits of his lawsuit read Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

“People who are skeptical should take a wait-and-see attitude,” he said.

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