A Hartford Superior Court judge will hear oral arguments Monday morning in a lawsuit brought by Republican state treasurer candidate Harry Arora who is seeking to remove his Independent Party rival from the November ballot.
Arora, a state legislator from Greenwich, has asked Judge John Farley to bar independent treasurer candidate Jennifer Baldwin from the ballot over allegations the state Independent Party failed to comply with case law requiring minor political parties re-submit their bylaws to the secretary of the state at least 60 days before nominating their candidates
“Notably, this was not an onerous requirement,” Proloy Das, Arora’s lawyer, wrote in a brief filed last week. “[T]he Independent Party was the only minor party for a statewide office that failed to file party rules after the 2018 election. The Green Party filed on April 12, 2021; the Griebel-Frank Party filed on November 17, 2021; the Libertarian Party filed on April 7, 2022; and the Working Families Party filed on October 17, 2019.”
No party to the lawsuit has disputed that the Independent Party did not refile its bylaws since the last election and ahead of the August caucus in which the party nominated Baldwin over Arora. In fact, the last time the party filed its bylaws was in 2010.
However, Timothy Holzman, an assistant attorney general representing Secretary of the State Mark Kohler, has argued that the case amounted to “political gamesmanship” and hinged on a single footnote from a 2019 state Supreme Court decision.
“The footnote does not have nearly the significance Plaintiff claims,” Holzman wrote.
In his brief, Das also pointed to a state law requiring at least one copy of a minor party’s nominating rules to be on file with the secretary of the state at least 180 days before a nomination.
“Thus, an Independent Party candidate for Treasurer can only appear on the ballot if the minor party for Treasurer’s party rules were timely filed,” he wrote. “Because, here, they have not been timely filed, as required by state statute, no candidate for Treasurer may appear on the Independent Party line.”
Holzman argued that Arora and his attorney were misinterpreting the law, which should be read to favor ballot access and “avoid absurd and unworkable results.”
“In any event, even if [state law] did impose some kind of ‘re-filing’ requirement—which it does not—Plaintiff would not be entitled to any relief because the Independent Party met that requirement here by submitting a letter to the Secretary in May, 2012 reaffirming that the 2010 bylaws are controlling,” Holzman wrote.
The lawsuit is the second attempt by a Republican to remove an Independent candidate from the ballot since the minor party made its nominations in August. Last month, Judge Cesar Noble rejected a bid by GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski to strip Independent candidate Rob Hotaling from the ballot over allegations the party violated its own bylaws at its nominating caucus.
Michael Telesca, chairman of the Independent Party, has called Arora’s lawsuit “ridiculous” and argued that both complaints reflected a Republican Party that felt entitled to cross endorsements by the Independent Party, which had largely nominated Republican candidates in recent election cycles.
“It seems pretty obvious that if they can’t control this party line then they’re going to want to destroy this party line. How else can you read it?” Telesca said last month.
Arora, meanwhile, has said the complaints reflect an Independent Party that has not played by the rules.
“We don’t believe that the caucus was run fairly and fairness has a role in our society — is the essence of our society — and now we realized from all the filings that they have shown total disregard, not only for their own laws but for state laws as well,” Arora said. “We believe that laws need to be followed and no one is above the rule of law.”