Elections Voter Rolls

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows has been asked by lawyers for Donald Trump to recuse herself from deciding on challenges that seek to keep Trump’s name off the Maine presidential primary ballot. Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Donald Trump’s legal team is asking Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows to disqualify herself from making a decision on whether the former president can appear on the state’s presidential primary ballot, saying past social media posts show she is biased against him.

“It goes without saying that the challengers’ efforts to prohibit Maine Republicans from voting for the leading Republican presidential candidate is a highly charged matter with serious constitutional and public policy consequences,” states a filing the Trump campaign sent to the Maine Department of the Secretary of State on Wednesday.

“The secretary’s expression of support for the view that January 6, 2021, constituted an insurrection, and that President Trump was an ‘insurrectionist,’ is probative evidence of prejudgment and bias.”

Asked about the filing, a spokesperson for Bellows said she is not commenting while challenges to Trump’s access to the March 5 ballot are pending. A ruling on three challenges, including one case brought forward by a bipartisan group of former state lawmakers and a former Portland mayor, is expected to come by the end of the week.

On Wednesday, Trump’s legal team, which includes Portland attorney Benjamin Hartwell as well as Colorado attorney Scott Gessler and Washington, D.C.-area attorney Gary Lawkowski, said Bellows has on three occasions made social media posts that show a personal bias and prejudgment of the facts around whether Trump engaged in insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021. Whether the riot represented insurrection, and Trump’s role in it, are key points of dispute in the ballot access case.

In a Feb. 13, 2021, statement on Twitter, now known as X, Bellows said that, “The Jan 6 insurrection was an unlawful attempt to overthrow the results of a free and fair election. Today 57 Senators including King & Collins found Trump guilty. That’s short of impeachment but nevertheless an indictment. The insurrectionists failed, and democracy prevailed.”


Bellows later replied to her own statement, “Not saying not disappointed. He should have been impeached. But history will not treat him or those who voted against impeachment kindly.”

And on Jan. 6, 2022, Bellows said in a statement on Twitter that, “One year after the violent insurrection, it’s important to do all we can to safeguard our elections.”

The letter asks that Bellows to disqualify herself as presiding officer regarding the challenges and appoint an “unbiased, impartial hearing officer” to rule on them.

Benjamin Gaines, an attorney for challengers Ethan Strimling, Tom Saviello and Kimberly Rosen, said attorneys for Trump should have filed their request earlier – the challenges have been pending since early December and both sides and Bellows engaged in an all-day hearing Dec. 15.

Attorneys for Trump said in the filing that they only learned of the social media posts on Dec. 23 “due to the expedited nature of this proceeding and the limited time to investigate and prepare.”

“Their request doesn’t have merit regardless,” said Gaines, who said Bellows has acted in an unbiased manner and that it’s common to refer to the events of Jan. 6 as an insurrection. “It doesn’t mean she’s prejudged the issues as to whether the events of Jan. 6 fit the actual legal definition of an insurrection,” he said.


Two of the challenges filed with Bellows seek to disqualify Trump for violating Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which prohibits people from holding office if they “have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the (Constitution), or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

Attorneys for Trump deny that he engaged in an insurrection and also argued that Section 3 doesn’t apply to the office of the presidency.


Similar challenges have been made across the country, although most are playing out in courts. Maine statute provides a process for the secretary of state to take up challenges to accessing the primary ballot, though Trump’s attorneys have argued that the scope of such challenges is limited and Bellows does not have the authority to remove Trump based on the challengers’ arguments.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to take up an appeal of a lower court’s decision, saying it’s up to political parties in that state to put forward candidates and the secretary of state doesn’t have authority to remove them from the ballot.

A decision by Bellows in the Maine case was originally expected last week, but her office extended the timeline after the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump is ineligible to appear on that state’s primary ballot because he engaged in insurrection through his actions leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol.

Members of the Colorado high court have faced intense backlash and officials have said they are investigating possible threats against the justices who ruled 4-3 to keep Trump off the ballot.

Attorneys for Trump challengers in Maine have argued that Bellows should look to and follow the decision set by the Colorado court. Attorneys for Trump, however, have said the Colorado decision has no impact because Maine law doesn’t give the secretary of state authority to remove the former president from the ballot.

The Colorado court put its ruling on hold until at least Jan. 4, and Trump has said he plans to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.