Republican candidate for governor sues the party

Scott Neely/Ballotpedia

Yellow Sheet Report

Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Neely is suing AZ GOP, itscchairwoman Kelli Ward and unnamed party officials, alleging his exclusion from party events and debates has violated his First Amendment rights and unlawfully kept him from accessing contributors he needs to qualify for the Citizens Clean Elections Commission Clean Funding program.

He said it is “one’s right as a member of a political party to be able to appeal to his party members at party functions and events for financial and other support.” Neely takes issue with Ward and the party’s decision to only invite candidates polling 5% or greater in recent public polling to certain events, saying there’s no cut-off for access outlined in party organizational documents or in statute. Neely alleged that it was “general public knowledge” that if the party and Ward’s “favored candidate” won the nomination and the general election, “certain favors and offices may be doled out” to the defendants. “By shutting out all but the one candidate she supports, Yellow Sheet Report reported Friday.

Ward and defendant GOP seek to, and do, discourage party members from donating to ‘nonfavored’ candidates with tNumerous Twitter screenshots attached to the complaint make clear the candidate he’s referring to is Kari Lake. 

Republican attorney Kory Langhofer said he understood Neely’s frustration but said it was unlikely the law had a solution. “Parties are generally allowed to establish reasonable criteria to separate top-tier candidates from the other candidates,” Langhofer said. “This is standard in both large presidential fields and smaller races like the gubernatorial campaign this cycle. You don’t have a First Amendment right to crash someone’s event, so I don’t think his lawsuit has good odds.”

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