Gene Stilp, a former Pennsylvania congressional candidate, has filed a lawsuit against Republican U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, seeking to remove him from the state primary ballot.
Stilp argues that Perry's involvement in challenging the results of the 2020 election should disqualify him from running for office. This move comes as several states, including Colorado, have faced similar challenges to former President Donald Trump's candidacy, resulting in his removal from the ballot.
Stilp, who filed the suit as a voter in Perry's 10th District, has called on Secretary of State Al Schmidt to remove Perry from the ballot for engaging in insurrection. The lawsuit mirrors previous challenges to Trump's candidacy, with Stilp arguing that Perry's participation in Trump's false elector scheme and attempts to overturn the certification of Pennsylvania's election amount to insurrection under the U.S. Constitution.
One of the main arguments in Stilp's lawsuit is based on Article 3 of the 14th Amendment, which states that individuals who engage in insurrection are unable to hold public office. Although Perry has not been charged with a crime in relation to the events of January 6th, when a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, Stilp points out that the Constitution does not require a conviction for insurrection to disqualify someone from holding office.
Perry, whose district includes Dauphin County and parts of Cumberland and York Counties, was a vocal advocate for Trump's attempts to overturn the election results. He spoke on the House floor just hours after the riot, seeking to have Pennsylvania's electoral votes thrown out. Perry has also been involved in other efforts to keep Trump in office after his loss, including refusing to be interviewed by the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.
Stilp's lawsuit also highlights testimony from a Trump White House staffer who claimed that Perry spoke to her after the Jan. 6th riot about requesting a presidential pardon. Although Perry has denied this claim, it has raised further questions about his involvement in efforts to obstruct the transfer of power to President Joe Biden. A federal judge also ordered Perry to turn over hundreds of texts and emails to FBI agents investigating these attempts to block the presidential transition.
A spokesperson for Perry's campaign has dismissed the lawsuit as "frivolous," stating "filed by a fringe activist whose claim to fame is an inflatable pink pig." The spokesperson also pointed to Perry's current work on critical issues facing the district and the nation, such as border security, and accused Stilp of seeking attention through this legal challenge.
The lawsuit also requests that any possible criminal activity by Perry or other parties involved in this case be referred to the Pennsylvania attorney general for prosecution. The state's Department of State, meanwhile, has declined to comment on the matter, citing ongoing legal proceedings.
This legal challenge comes as Perry faces reelection in a politically divided district. He easily won his seat in 2020, but Democrats are hoping to capitalize on his ties to Trump's failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Four Democrats have already announced their candidacy in the April primary, and this lawsuit could further damage Perry's chances of retaining his seat.
However, the outcome of this lawsuit remains uncertain, as the Pennsylvania Election Code does not explicitly give the secretary of state the power to remove a candidate from the ballot based on eligibility criteria. Stilp's move follows a similar one by State Sen. Art Haywood, who called on Schmidt to remove Trump from the ballot in August last year, citing the 14th Amendment and a court decision in Colorado that ultimately resulted in Trump's removal from that state's ballot. Schmidt then stated that only the courts have the authority to decide on a candidate's eligibility in such cases.