By David Larson
The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has denied a motion from two Democratic groups that tried to block the Green Party from appearing on the N.C. general election ballot. The decision paves the way for Green Party candidate Matthew Hoh to compete in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race.
The Appeals Court announced its decision Thursday with a two-sentence order. Unless the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and N.C. Democratic Party appeal successfully to the U.S. Supreme Court, Hoh and Michael Trudeau, a Green Party state Senate candidate, will appear on the November ballot.
But according to Hoh and Green Party attorney Oliver Hall, who both spoke to Carolina Journal after the decision, they believe this is almost certainly the end of the Democrats’ legitimate options for keeping them from the ballot.
Asked if this was finally the moment they could breathe easy that NCGP candidates were on the ballot, Hall said, “That appears to be the case,” and Hoh said, “Yes, that’s how we see it.”
“I can’t say what the Democrats might try to do next, but as I’ve been saying for days, they’re running out of time and they’re running out of options,’ Hall added. “And I think we’ve reached the right outcome of this case. Matthew Hoh and Michael Trudeau earned their place on the ballot. They deserve to be there. And they have a constitutional right to be there. And I believe this should be the end of the line for the Democrats.”
Now that the battle appears to be over, Hoh said he can put the months-long fight to get on the ballot aside and start campaigning in earnest.
“I’m looking forward to doing what we started out to do, running a campaign that is apart from the campaigns of Democrats and Republicans, a campaign that’s for working families,” Hoh said. “So I’m looking forward to finally being able to do that. It’s been months of having to fight for our rightful spot on the ballot and now that we have it, we’re going to make full use of that. We’re going to continue to show why multi-party democracy is needed, as well as other options for the voters of North Carolina.”
And Hoh had a message for the N.C. Democratic Party, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Elias Law Group.
“I would say, if they put just a margin of the effort that they put into keeping my campaign and the North Carolina Green Party out towards actually helping the people of North Carolina, it would make all the difference in the world for millions of people,” Hoh said. “But they’re more concerned with taking care of their own power and their own interests than they are in helping their own constituency and this is why people are sick and tired of the two-party system, they’re sick and tired of both major parties. They want third parties and independents and that’s why we’re doing this… We’re not just focusing on left-wing voters. We want to reach out to people who’ve been disaffected by the political system, wherever they may be.”
Friday marks the N.C. State Board of Elections’ deadline for finalizing the general election ballot. That deadline is tied to a Sept. 9 deadline for distribution of absentee ballots.
U.S. District Judge James Dever ruled on Aug. 5 that North Carolina’s July 1 candidate filing deadline would not apply to two Green Party candidates, including Hoh. Dever reached that ruling after the state elections board agreed to recognize the Green Party on Aug. 1, one month after the candidate deadline.
Greens had submitted petition signatures required by state law in mid-May. In its first consideration of those signatures on June 30, the elections board had split 3-2 in rejecting recognition for the Green Party. Democratic board members opposed recognition, while Republican members supported the Greens.
State and national Democratic groups intervened in the Greens’ federal lawsuit against the state elections board. The Democratic groups urged the Appeals Court to block Dever’s order.
At the same time that 4th Circuit judges denied Democrats’ emergency motion to stay Dever’s ruling, the judges also allowed the National Republican Senatorial Committee to file a friend-of-the-court brief in the case.
“The record below contains significant evidence indicating that Intervenors believe that excluding the Green Party from the general election ballot in 2022 will boost the Democratic Party’s electoral prospects, to the detriment of the Republican Party and the NRSC’s efforts to support Republican candidates,” the Republican group had argued in its brief. “Accordingly, the NRSC has an interest in ensuring that qualified Green Party candidates are not categorically excluded from the ballot.”
Barring other legal action, the race to fill retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Burr’s seat will feature four candidates: Democrat Cheri Beasley, Republican Ted Budd, Libertarian Shannon Bray, and Hoh.