Lifelong Republican, 91, defies Trump as Supreme Court tackles major ballot question

Norma Anderson, a former Republican state legislator who served as the first female majority leader in the Colorado House and Senate, is one of the plaintiffs in the Colorado case that could disqualify former U.S. president Donald Trump from the state's Republican primary ballot. (Kevin Mohatt/Reuters - image credit)
Norma Anderson, a former Republican state legislator who served as the first female majority leader in the Colorado House and Senate, is one of the plaintiffs in the Colorado case that could disqualify former U.S. president Donald Trump from the state's Republican primary ballot. (Kevin Mohatt/Reuters - image credit)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday will grapple with the first — though possibly not the last — issue to affect Donald Trump's bid to once again become U.S. president.

That is, a December ruling by Colorado's top court barring Trump from being on the state ballot.

The decision came after the Colorado justices decided he had violated Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The provision bars from office any "officer of the United States" who took an oath "to support the Constitution of the United States" and then "engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof."

The seven-judge panel said that through his actions, which included alleging unsubstantiated widespread voter fraud and urging supporters on Jan. 6, 2021, to march to the U.S. Capitol and "fight like hell," Trump participated in an insurrection.

Trump aided the "purpose of preventing the peaceful transfer of power in this country," the judges said in a 4-3 decision that, in part, reversed a district court ruling allowing Trump to remain on ballots in the state.

"Democrats will stop at nothing to prevent President Trump's return to the White House," influential House Republican Elise Stefanik posted on social media in reaction.

While the Colorado judges were all appointed by Democrats at one time or another, the suit challenging Trump's eligibility on the state ballot was filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) on behalf of six Republican and unaffiliated voters.

"Colorado law requires that, in order for a voter to challenge the placement of the candidate in the Republican presidential primary, that they be Republicans or unaffiliated voters," Donald Sherman, CREW's executive vice-president, recently told Business Insider.

WATCH l Plaintiffs have 'compelling' case, but in a volatile climate, says analyst:

What the plaintiffs have to say

To be clear, the appellants are politically engaged people and not just randomly plucked from the citizenry.

Mario Nicolais, a conservative lawyer from the Denver suburb of Lakewood who helped gather them, told Reuters the plaintiffs "were so turned off by that insurrection and by what Donald Trump did on Jan. 6 that they said … our country is more important and our Constitution is more important."

David Zalubowski/The Associated Press
David Zalubowski/The Associated Press

Lead plaintiff Norma Anderson, 91, served as a Republican majority leader in both Colorado's Senate and its House of Representatives.

"I am old enough to remember the Depression, World War Two, two other wars, recessions, good times, bad times and lots of presidents. But never have I seen what happened on January 6th," she told Reuters. "I knew who was guilty immediately."

"[Trump] wants to be king. He wants to be like [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, where he has complete control," Anderson said.

Another plaintiff is Krista Kafer, a right-leaning former Denver Post columnist who wrote in 2020 about plugging her nose while casting a ballot for Trump. The events after that vote, culminating in the riot at the U.S. Capitol, led her to turn her back on the party.

"As a longtime Republican who voted for him, I believe Donald Trump disqualified himself from running in 2024 by spreading lies, vilifying election workers and fomenting an attack on the Capitol," Kafer said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed. "Those who by force and by falsehood subvert democracy are unfit to participate in it."

Claudine Schneider, meanwhile, is a Colorado resident who served in the U.S. Congress as a Republican from Rhode Island for nearly all of the 1980s.

"In my decade of service in the House of Representatives, I certified multiple presidential elections and saw firsthand the importance of ethics, the rule of law and the peaceful transfer of power in our democracy," Schneider said in a statement last year.

WATCH l Explaining the insurrection clause and the case:

The Colorado plaintiffs are stepping forward at a time when volunteer election workers, judges and prosecutors have either been subjected to death threats or swatting incidents.

"I'm used to being called a fascist and a communist, but I think Satanist was an interesting new term," Kafer told the Wall Street Journal this week of the vitriol she's faced.

Other plaintiffs include:

  • Christopher Castilian, a former staffer to former state Republican Gov. Bill Owens.

  • Kathi Wright, once a city council member in Loveland, Colo.

  • Michelle Priola, the wife of state senator Kevin Priola, who switched from Republican to Democrat after Jan. 6, 2021.

What is Trump's position?

Trump's attorneys contend that he is "not subject to Section 3" because a president is not an "officer of the United States," a position they argue is instead typically appointed or commissioned by the president.

They also contend Section 3 cannot be enforced by courts absent congressional legislation that prohibits individuals from holding but not running for office.

They argue Trump did not engage in an insurrection, although his actions leading up to and including Jan. 6, 2021, figure in one of four criminal indictments he faces. In their brief to the court, Trump's lawyers emphasized he told a crowd on Jan. 6 to "peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard."

Read the Trump brief to the U.S. Supreme Court:

The Supreme Court justices in Trump v. Anderson may wrestle with questions such as whether Trump was an "officer," whether he did engage in insurrection and whether that section of the Constitution is self-executing, or whether Congress needs to pass legislation to codify it in law.

Maine has also questioned Trump's eligibility on its ballot. Both Maine and Colorado are part of the Super Tuesday slate of states holding primaries on March 5, meaning the top court could rule more quickly than in a typical case.