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Georgia GOP chair discusses Colorado ruling disqualifying Trump from primary ballot

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump is trying to capitalize on the Colorado Supreme Court decision that bars him from running in the state's primary election. Trump, who in the past has been able to turn his legal challenges into rising primary poll numbers, is already fundraising off the decision. His team has made it clear that they would swiftly appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. Similar challenges could be launched in other states. Now, to hear how state Republican parties are dealing with this, we reached out to Josh McKoon. He's the chairman of Georgia's Republican Party. So, Josh, what was your reaction to the Colorado Supreme Court decision?

JOSH MCKOON: Well, it's just absurd. You know, these challenges have been made all over the country. Courts have uniformly rejected them. And we have a Colorado Supreme Court entirely composed of Democratic appointees, and three of them even rejected it. So you have four left-wing judges trying to deprive the people of Colorado of the candidate of their choice. It's simply absurd.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, the former president does face a number of legal challenges, although he is not been charged with insurrection, and that's what the Colorado decision is based on. Do you believe, Josh, that a state should have the right to disqualify a candidate over their behavior?

MCKOON: The president of the United States is an elected office. The qualifications are defined by the United States Constitution. States cannot alter or amend those. And thankfully, most judges recognize that, so I expect the U.S. Supreme Court will swiftly reverse this decision.

MARTÍNEZ: So that's definitely a no from you on that.

MCKOON: That is a no.

MARTÍNEZ: OK. Would a conviction in any of Donald Trump's pending cases change your opinion on that?

MCKOON: No. We've had people convicted of crimes run for president in the past. The people of this country are sovereign. They get to decide who the candidate of their choice is going to be.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Donald Trump, if you believe the polls, is the clear front-runner to win the Republican nomination. His legal issues seemingly have not had any effect on his campaign. Josh, do you believe this court decision actually boosts his chances to win the nomination?

MCKOON: I think it is energizing Republicans to say, we've got to take this country back, because we've got to get back to a situation where we don't prosecute people because they are our political adversaries.

MARTÍNEZ: What has this done for the way the Georgia GOP does voter outreach? What have you been able to do in the last few days?

MCKOON: Well, we've just seen throughout this entire process so much energy with our grassroots. Seventy percent of our delegates at our convention back in June were brand new, had never participated before. We're seeing that at county party meetings. We're seeing that in our voter outreach. People are incredibly energized and excited because they want our country to go back to a place where if you lose an election, you don't have to worry about being indicted or interrogated by law enforcement.

MARTÍNEZ: Now, Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, in a video posted on X yesterday, said he would withdraw from the Colorado primary, and he called on other GOP candidates to do the same in response to the court decision. Let's listen to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

VIVEK RAMASWAMY: And I demand that Ron DeSantis and Chris Christie and Nikki Haley do the same thing, or else these Republicans are simply complicit in this unconstitutional attack on the way we conduct our constitutional republic.

MARTÍNEZ: If what happened in Colorado were to happen in other states and Republican candidates wanted to withdraw their names in solidarity with Donald Trump, does it weaken the potential presidential nominee in the general election?

MCKOON: Well, I think what needs to happen is what Colorado Republican Party Chairman Dave Williams has suggested, which is he'll simply move to a caucus so that all the candidates can participate. And I think that's what any state chair should do if they're confronted with a similar situation. The people have the right to the candidate of their choice, whoever that may be. That's the principle I'll stand on. And I believe it's the principle that my fellow Republican National Committee members will stand on.

MARTÍNEZ: Are you preparing for a similar challenge in Georgia?

MCKOON: No, I don't believe we'll see that sort of challenge in Georgia. We've gone through our process of submitting our list to the secretary of state. I'm not aware of any legal challenge since we did that a month ago, and hopefully we will be able to conduct our primary free from interference of left-wing groups that want judges to take decisions away from Georgia voters.

MARTÍNEZ: Josh McKoon is the chairman of the Georgia Republican Party. Thank you very much.

MCKOON: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.