A Death Ray Comes from the Federal Courts

While initial reports were U.S. Federal District Court Judge Billy Ray was not going to issue a Ruling in the case brought to his courtroom by the Catoosa County Republican Party and their Chair, Joanna Hildreth, asking the federal court to do what the Superior Court would not…deny three Republican office holders and one former Republican office holder the right to run in the May 21 GOP Primary…Judge Ray did release his Ruling this afternoon denying the Plaintiffs’ request for a Temporary Injunction and Restraining Order (TRO).

In the nine page Ruling, Judge Ray rejected the arguments made by Plaintiffs’ attorney and GRA President Alex Johnson. Johnson has been using Catoosa County as the proxy to advance his personal agenda that he has been crusading on at least since June of 2023.

In denying the TRO against the Catoosa County Board of Elections and Registration, Judge Ray noted that given the limited time for briefing and the closeness of the election that a TRO would not be in order stating, “[T]he Plaintiffs have failed to establish all of the necessary elements for a TRO.”

Judge Ray, was unconvinced by Johnson’s argument that the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals established precedent that the, “Republican Party has a First Amendment right to freedom of association and an attendant right to identify those who constitute the party based on political beliefs,” in Duke v. Massey, 87F.3d 1226, 1234 (11th Cir. 1996) and that the Plaintiffs’ rights would be violated if forced to associate with the four Republican candidates.

Judge Ray simply noted in his Ruling that, “it is unclear whether the Plaintiffs rights would be violated here.”

The Ruling also addresses the ballot questions that the Catoosa County Republican Party tried unsuccessfully to add to the Republican Primary Ballot which stated:

  1. Do you think anti-Trump Democrats should be able to get a court
    order to force the elections board to qualify them as Republican
    candidates for office?
  2. Did you know that Steven Henry, Vanita Hullander, Jeff Long, and
    Larry Black were not approved to run as Republicans by the
    Republican Party?

Judge Ray agreed with the assessment from the Secretary of State’s Office that the ballot questions amounted to “illegal electioneering” and were not permitted, “The Court first notes that the questions do appear to be an improper attempt to use the ballot to influence voters—for example, the questions imply that the Candidates are “anti-Trump Democrats…”

However, the Court decided it need not address questions like

  1. whether the proposed ballot questions would be prohibited as “electioneer[ing]” or
  2. “solicit[ing] votes” under Georgia law or whether the Catoosa County Republican Party would be considered a “person” for purposes of these statutes.

Instead, the Court once again cited the limited briefing time, but reserved ruling on the “consideration of these complex legal issues” for now.

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