PHOENIX (AP) — The No Labels party on Thursday filed a lawsuit in Arizona seeking to block its ballot line from being used by Democrats who oppose the group’s efforts to launch a third-party ticket for president next year.
The lawsuit asks a federal judge in Phoenix to block Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes from allowing people to run for offices other than president or vice president under the No Labels banner.
Fontes’s office told the group last month that it is obligated to accept filings from candidates even if party leaders reject them. At least one person who’s filed under No Labels is a Joe Biden supporter who opposes the group and wants it to disclose its donors, something long sought by supporters of the president.
No Labels has drawn extra scrutiny in Arizona, one of a dozen states where it has secured ballot access for a potential presidential candidate. Biden supporters say they’re worried No Labels could prove a spoiler given that he won the state by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2020 with a coalition that included conservative independents and moderate Republicans.
By refusing to nominate candidates for state offices, No Labels argues it is not subject to Arizona’s campaign finance disclosure laws. The party argues state law allows political parties to participate only in elections that they choose and the U.S. Constitution protects the party’s right to freely associate or not associate with candidates.
“The law is clearly on the side of No Labels,” said Benjamin Chavis Jr., a former head of the NAACP and the national co-chair of No Labels. “So the question is, ‘Why is the secretary of state acting the way he’s acting?’ It has nothing to do with the law, it has more to do with politics.”
A spokesperson for Fontes, a Democrat, had no immediate comment. But last month, his office told No Labels that refusing their paperwork would violate their rights.
“The Arizona Secretary of State disagrees with your assertion that a newly recognized political party can choose to deprive its own voters of their constitutionally protected freedom of association,” State Elections Director Colleen Connor wrote in a Sept. 22 letter.
Candidates have filed statements of interest to run for U.S. Senate and Arizona Corporation Commission, the state’s utility regulator. One of them, Corporation Commission candidate Richard Grayson, is a No Labels opponent who has been critical of the group’s efforts.
No Labels officials say they’ve raised $60 million as they seek ballot access in all 50 states to offer an alternative to Biden and former President Donald Trump, who are headed toward a 2024 rematch even as polls indicate Americans are broadly opposed to both of them. The group says it won’t name its donors to protect their privacy.
No Labels officials deny they will be spoilers, saying discontent with the major political parties is at a fever pitch and creates a rare opportunity for a third-party effort to succeed. They say they will only nominate a candidate if they see a viable path to victory and will make a decision next spring.