HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — A liberal activist asked a Pennsylvania court on Tuesday to bar U.S. Rep. Scott Perry from the state’s primary ballot, arguing that Perry isn’t eligible because of his efforts to keep President Donald Trump in office and block the transfer of power to Democrat Joe Biden.
The seven-page lawsuit asks Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court to declare that Perry engaged in insurrectionist activity and cannot hold public office under the Constitution’s insurrection clause. The lawsuit by activist Gene Stilp names Perry and Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, Al Schmidt.
Perry, a Republican, is expected to run for a seventh term, although candidates cannot file paperwork yet to qualify for Pennsylvania’s April 23 primary ballot.
In part, the filing cites Perry’s role in trying to use the Department of Justice to help Trump stall the certification of the election by installing an acting attorney general who would be receptive to Trump’s false claims of election fraud.
The challenge comes on the heels of Maine’s Democratic secretary of state removing Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot under the clause and a ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court that booted Trump from the ballot there. Trump is expected to appeal both to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a statement, Perry’s lawyer, John P. Rowley, suggested that those appeals would ensure that the lawsuit against Perry is nullified.
“This lawsuit was filed by a partisan activist who clearly has no regard or understanding of how our Democratic Republic works,” Rowley wrote. “It is but the latest effort by an extremist to disqualify a duly elected official with whom he disagrees. We are confident the Supreme Court will put an end to this lunacy.”
Perry has not been charged with a crime, although he is the only sitting member of Congress whose cellphone was seized by the FBI in its investigation into efforts to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Perry has fought efforts by federal investigators to review texts and emails from his cell phone. A judge last month ordered Perry to turn over more than 1,600 texts and emails to FBI agents. Perry did not appeal it, his lawyer said.
Schmidt’s office declined comment Tuesday. It previously opposed a similar lawsuit in federal court seeking to remove Trump from the ballot in Pennsylvania. Stilp last week withdrew that lawsuit, and plans to file a new lawsuit in state court, saying he has a better chance of success there than in federal court.
The 155-year-old Civil War-era clause — Section 3 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution — bars from office those who “engaged in insurrection.” It was designed to keep representatives who had fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War from returning to Congress.
To get on Pennsylvania’s primary ballot, candidates cannot file paperwork until Jan. 23. The deadline to file is Feb. 13.