Tom Stanhope, town secretary for the Cumberland County Republican Committee, at his home on Friday. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Tom Stanhope has always thought the United States is the best nation in the world because of the freedoms and rights its citizens are afforded.

Now he is worried those rights are being taken away.

Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows’ Thursday night decision to remove former President Donald Trump from the state’s presidential primary ballot has been fiercely criticized by Republicans in Maine and around the country as a partisan political decision aimed at taking away the voice of American voters.

While Bellows said Friday that her decision was based on the rules and the evidence, a pair of Republican lawmakers said they want to impeach Bellows because of her decision.

“I wish to impeach Secretary Bellows on the grounds that she is barring an American citizen and 45th President of the United States, who is convicted of no crime or impeachment, their right to appear on a Maine Republican Primary ballot,” Rep. John Andrews of Paris wrote in a letter to the Maine Revisor’s Office calling for impeachment proceedings.

Rep. Mike Soboleski of Phillips, who is running for Congress in the 2nd District, is circulating a petition in support of impeachment.

Stanhope, the Cumberland town secretary for the Cumberland County Republican Committee, said he believes the ruling treads on the fundamental rights of Americans.

“It’s very disturbing,” said Stanhope, 59. “It makes you question where our government is headed.”

Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in Augusta on Friday, the morning after issuing her decision to bar Trump from the primary ballot in Maine. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Bellows’ decision makes Maine the second state to kick Trump off the presidential primary ballot. Last week, the Colorado Supreme Court disqualified Trump from that state’s Republican primary ballot. Both Bellows’ and the Colorado Supreme Court cited the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which disallows from holding office those who supported or “engaged in insurrection or rebellion,” after taking an oath of office to protect the Constitution.

Bellows made the decision in response to ballot challenges to Trump’s eligibility. State law requires the Maine secretary of state to make decisions on candidate eligibility challenges.

In 34 pages, Bellows defended her decision, saying that Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol made him ineligible to be on the primary ballot.

“I am mindful that no secretary of state has ever deprived a presidential candidate of ballot access based on Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment,” she said. “I am also mindful, however, that no presidential candidate has ever before engaged in insurrection.”

Election 2024 Trump Rhetoric

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally this month in Durham, N.H.

But Republicans around the state say Bellows’ decision is flawed, arguing that because Trump was never convicted of insurrection, he can’t be barred from the ballot.

“Secretary of State Shenna Bellows has made a political decision,” said Kandi-Lee Hoy, the South Portland chair of the Cumberland County Republican Committee.

“This is an effort to cheat the voters out of their civil rights and is clearly meant to tell us who we have the right to vote for,” she said.

The 14th Amendment does not say that one must be convicted of insurrection to be barred from holding office, only that they participated in insurrection.

Almost all the Republicans in Maine who spoke with the Press Herald on Friday said they did not believe that Trump played any role in the Jan. 6 incident, saying that those who went to the Capitol that day did so of their own free will.

Trump has historically enjoyed success in Maine and currently remains popular with the state’s conservatives. As a whole, Mainers voted against the former president in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, but he has had consistent success in the state’s 2nd Congressional District, which is more rural and conservative. In 2016, he won 51% of the vote in the 2nd District and he won 52% in 2020.

Despite a slew of recent criminal charges against Trump, a majority of Republicans in the state still stand behind him and do not believe he has committed any crimes, according to an August poll conducted by the University of New Hampshire.

Gary Plummer of Windham. photographed in 2012 when he was a Republican candidate for the state Senate. file photo

Windham Republican Gary Plummer says he knows Shenna Bellows personally. He worked with her for about 10 years when he was in the Legislature and she was the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maine. Although they often disagreed, they sometimes found a middle ground and he gained respect for Bellows, he said.

He said he was disappointed, but not surprised, when he heard about the ruling.

“If she had come down on the other side, she would have been very unpopular with those who elected her so it was a decision she sort of had to make,” he said.

Plummer said that although he can see why she made the decision she did, he still thinks it was wrong. He sees it as a political one based on unreliable evidence from the Congressional January 6th committee, which he said was biased and subjective.


Ultimately, Plummer thinks that the ruling will be overturned in the courts and that the only impact it will have is to push more people to vote for Trump and sympathize with him.

“It certainly pushes me in that direction,” said Plummer, who said he is not sure if he will vote for Trump and is a fan of Ron DeSantis.

Ben McKenney, East Baldwin town chair for the Cumberland County Republican Committee, said he thinks that Bellows’ decision was a political one made to advance her career.

“I feel like there is a bigger agenda for her,” said McKenney, 45, “I think this was her way of making her mark in the political arena.”

But his most pressing concern is that Bellows’ ruling could set a dangerous precedent of political figures trying to knock candidates off the ballot rather than putting the question of whom to elect to voters. He said if that became precedent, he would be very worried about the state of the democracy.

“People live in America because we have democracy,” said McKenney. “If you don’t like a candidate, don’t vote for them.”

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