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Georgia judge allows suit challenging Marjorie Taylor Greene's reelection bid to proceed

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Washington — A federal judge on Monday paved the way for an effort to disqualify GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia from running for reelection over her role in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol to proceed. 

The challenge to Greene's candidacy was mounted by a group of five voters from her congressional district who argued she is ineligible to run for federal office under a provision of the 14th Amendment that was ratified after the Civil War and meant to keep former Confederate officers and officials from holding public office again.

In a challenge filed with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in late March, the voters argued Greene "voluntarily aided and engaged" in the January 6 insurrection to obstruct the peaceful transfer of power, thereby disqualifying her from serving as a member of Congress under the constitutional provision.

Greene asked a federal court in Atlanta to intervene in the effort from the group of voters, seeking a preliminary injunction and temporary restraining order. But Judge Amy Totenberg of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia rebuffed Greene's request, finding she failed to establish a strong likelihood of success on the legal merits of the case.

"This case involves a whirlpool of colliding constitutional interests of public import," Totenberg wrote in her 73-page decision. "The novelty of the factual and historical posture of this case — especially when assessed in the context of a preliminary injunction motion reviewed on a fast track — has made resolution of the complex legal issues at stake here particularly demanding."

James Bopp, a lawyer for Greene, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Georgia law allows voters to challenge the qualifications of a candidate by filing a written complaint with the secretary of state laying out the reasons why they believe the candidate is not qualified to seek and hold public office. Receipt of the challenge then triggers an administrative proceeding before an administrative law judge, set for Friday, during which the voters will establish why Greene should be disqualified to run for reelection in November's midterm elections.

Following the hearing, the administrative law judge will then report his findings to the secretary of state, who determines whether the candidate is qualified to seek and hold public office. The decision can be appealed to the Superior Court of Fulton County and the Georgia Court of Appeals or Supreme Court.

In their candidacy challenge filed with Raffensberger, the voters argued the events of January 6 "amounted to an insurrection or a rebellion under Section Three [of the 14th Amendment]: a violent, coordinated effort to storm the Capitol to prevent the vice president of the United States and the United States Congress from fulfilling their constitutional roles by certifying President Biden's victory, and to illegally extend then-President Trump's tenure in office, including by illegally introducing illegitimate electors as 'alternate slates' for Congress to vote on."

Evidence, they said, shows Greene "encouraged and was otherwise involved in efforts to intimidate Congress and the vice president" into rejecting state electoral votes and subverting the transfer of power.

The voters cited Greene's comments declaring a demonstration before the assault to be "our 1776 moment" and claim she was involved in either the planning of the January 6 attack or the planning of the rally at the Ellipse outside the White House, after which a mob of former President Donald Trump's supporters violently breached the Capitol.

"Each and all of these actions disqualify her from federal office under the Disqualification Clause of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment," they argued.

The voters are represented by the group Free Speech for People, which is behind a separate challenge to the candidacy of Rep. Madison Cawthorn of North Carolina based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Unlike in Greene's case, a federal district court judge in North Carolina blocked the state Board of Elections from hearing the challenge to Cawthorn's qualifications.

Since she was sworn in as a member of Congress last year, Greene has not shied away from controversy. The House last year voted to remove Greene from her committee assignments due to social media posts embracing conspiracy theories and supporting violence against Democratic congressional leaders. 

A staunch ally of Trump's, she has also promoted his baseless claims the 2020 presidential election was rigged against him. Her Twitter account was also permanently suspended for violations of its COVID-19 misinformation policies. 

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