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Arizona Supreme Court rejects ‘insurrectionist’ ballot challenge to Biggs, Gosar and Finchem

By: - May 9, 2022 1:16 pm

Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, touring Veterans Memorial Coliseum during the Senate’s audit of the 2020 election in Maricopa County. Photo by Michael Meister | Arizona Republic/pool

The Arizona Supreme Court flatly rejected an attempt to disqualify Republican Congressmen Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar and State Rep. Mark Finchem from the 2022 ballot for their alleged roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. 

“The Candidates are not disqualified from appearing on the ballot for the 2022 primary election,” the court ruled Monday. The justices agreed with a lower court’s determination that the authority to disqualify candidates under the Fourteenth Amendment rests more in the hands of Congress than it does in the hands of the courts. 

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The decision comes from a trio of lawsuits that are part of a growing legal effort to use the Fourteenth Amendment to disqualify candidates because of their support of the Jan. 6 attack, claiming they are “insurrectionists” and thus unable to hold public office. The amendment was adopted during Reconstruction after the Civil War and was intended to bar Confederate leaders from being elected to positions of power.  

Biggs and Gosar are seeking re-election, while Finchem is running for secretary of state.

Free Speech For People, which filed the lawsuits, said the Supreme Court ruling “gives a pass to political violence as a tool for disrupting and overturning free and fair elections.”

Free Speech For People, the group behind the suits, has made a similar challenge in the past: It sought to have North Carolina U.S. Rep. Madison Cawthorn barred from that state’s ballot on the grounds that he is disqualified by the Fourteenth Amendment. But the attempt has so far fallen flat after a federal judge appointed by former President Donald Trump ruled that the Amnesty Act of 1872 gave amnesty to all future insurrectionists.

In the lower court’s decision, the judge noted that Finchem, Gosar and Biggs have not been “charged with or convicted of any state or federal crime that relates to insurrection or rebellion.”

Arizona Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick did not participate in deciding the case; his wife, state Rep. Shawnna Bolick, is also running for secretary of state.

The Arizona Supreme Court denied a motion by Gosar requesting attorney fees in the case.

***UPDATED: This story has been updated to include comments from Free Speech For People. The headline was also updated for clarity.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

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