More news on Mathew Sawyer from The Daily Beast.
"The Secret Movement to Draft General James Mattis for President"
By Tim Mak 04.08.16 12:15 AM ET
Gen. James Mattis doesn’t necessarily want to be president—but that’s not stopping a group of billionaire donors from hatching a plan to get him there.
An anonymous group of conservative billionaires is ready to place their bets on a man dubbed “Mad Dog,” hoping to draft him into the presidential race to confront Donald Trump.
Think of it as a Plan B should Trump be nominated by the Republican Party in Cleveland: swing behind retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis and press him into service yet again as a third-party candidate.
Mattis is the former commander of Central Command, which includes the strife-afflicted conflict zones of the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, and has developed a reputation among troops as a general officer who cares about the little guy. This reputation blossomed into the political realm during the 2012 presidential contest, when a Marine Corps veteran started an online campaign to write-in Mattis on presidential ballots—it ultimately lacked the backing to take off.
But this situation involves far bigger players: Close to a dozen influential donors—involving politically-involved billionaires with deep pockets and conservative leanings—are ready to put their resources behind Mattis. At their request, a small group of political operatives have taken the first steps in the strategic legwork needed for a bid: a package of six strategic memos outlining how Mattis could win the race, in hopes of coaxing him in.
The general has received the package of memos, according to two individuals involved with the project.
Mattis, who is also nicknamed the “warrior monk” for his contemplative devotion to the military arts, would be a fallback option for anti-Trump forces. But since the next series of GOP nomination contests heavily favor Trump, this is not exactly a fantasy scenario.
“Everyone is hoping that Ted Cruz pulls it out, but I think a great deal of Republicans would rally behind an American hero if the choice is between Mattis and Trump,” said John Noonan, a former Jeb Bush aide now involved in the project to draft Mattis.
“He’s a man of character and integrity. He’s given his life to his country. How do you ask someone like that to leap headfirst into this toxic mud puddle of a race? It’s damn hard. But Trump is a fascist lunatic and Hillary has one foot in a jail cell. That means the lunatic can win. I’d be first in line to plead with the general to come save America,” Noonan added.
The strategy would not be for Mattis to win, at least at first—the operatives behind this potential bid would only be seeking to deny Trump and Clinton the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the general election outright. And there is also the incredible logistical challenge of getting Mattis on the ballot in a large number of states.
“The process is actually quite simple, but it’s difficult,” one of the strategists concedes in a memo, and the chances of Mattis winning the White House outright as a third-party candidate are “very low.” But if the retired military officer could win several states won by President Obama in 2012, they might be able to block Clinton, thus forcing the incoming House of Representatives to make a decision on the next president of the United States.
With the House split, the strategists reason, Mattis could be the consensus choice.
“The theme of 2016 is ‘all bets are off’ and this is a cycle where the unexpected has become the defining characteristic of this election,” said strategist Rick Wilson, who is also involved in the project. “In a moment when American politics on the left and right has been upended, and where the frontrunners of both parties are compromised, the time may be upon us where a uniquely qualified, and uniquely credible third-party alternative like General Mattis can take the stage.”
Another limiting factor is Mattis himself, who is disinclined to run. These strategists hope he could change his mind if he were to feel compelled to serve his country.
Those close to him are skeptical that his mind could be changed.
“It is difficult—if not impossible—to see him accepting being drafted,” said a source close to Mattis.
Still, Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol poured fuel onto the fire Feb. 22, after Trump victories in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Speaking at a fundraiser for the Hoover Institute, where Mattis is a visiting fellow, Kristol suggested—perhaps jokingly—that the former four-star general might be conscripted into the race.
“No way!” shouted back a jocular Mattis, from the audience.
Mattis, who declined to speak with The Daily Beast, has previously suggested that he could not endure the political correctness required to be a contender for the White House. But given Trump’s myriad controversies, this may not be a problem this year.
“I’ve lived a very colorful life and I’ve said some things,” Mattis told an audience last year, according to the Marine Corps Times. “But not once have I taken them back, and I’ve never apologized for them—and I won’t. I like the enemy knowing there are a few guys like me around.”
The pro-Mattis donors, who want to stay anonymous for the time being, have assembled a core group of seven political operatives, led by Joel Searby, a Republican consultant based in Florida. The group of strategists also includes lead attorney Mohammad Jazil; ballot access specialist Matthew Sawyer; and former George W. Bush pollster Jan Lohuizen, along with a finance team and a “top firm” that has been secured to lead the ballot access petition gathering, members of the team tell The Daily Beast.
Wilson and Noonan co-authored a memo on how Mattis might capitalize on the current media environment, arguing that Trump’s “fake-macho act falls apart” before a bona fide American hero like Mattis. The general’s overall bearing “immediately blows a hole into the central narrative of Trump: his toughness,” they argue in a memo obtained by The Daily Beast. “[A]nd the drama of watching it fall apart under fire would be amazing television.”
Comparing him to President Dwight Eisenhower, the memo concludes that Mattis has “all the iconoclastic, authentic style of non-politician Trump—and all the serious government service credibility of Hillary Clinton.”
Some conservatives, disgusted with Trump’s candidacy, have already warmed to the idea of a run by Mattis—including conservative commentators Erick Erickson and Kristol.
Kristol told The Daily Beast that he had “huge respect and admiration” for Mattis—and Gen. John Kelly, another high-ranking general.
“I don’t know whether they’re ideally suited for the presidency,” he said. “But I do know they’re a hell of a lot more suited for it than Donald Trump.”
May 10, 2016
More news on Matthew Sawyer from The Huffington Post.
"Anti-Donald Trump Forces Gear Up For Third-Party Challenge"
05/10/2016 04:55 pm ET
Sam Stein Senior Politics Editor, The Huffington Post
Igor Bobic Associate Politics Editor, The Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — Top Republican strategists this past week have stepped up a frantic effort to lay the groundwork for a third-party presidential run, even as elected officials within the party begin to make their peace with Donald Trump.
The effort is admittedly a long shot, according to aides directly involved in it. But they insist it’s not as impossible as some members of the GOP and the press perceive it to be. In particular, these aides have begun exploring the idea of suing states over their deadlines for ballot access so they can be afforded more time to field a candidate and gather signatures. Additionally, they are discussing the possibility of launching an entirely new political party rather than latching onto an existing one, since doing so would provide easier passageways for getting on the ballot.
“The ballot deadlines are doable, avoidable or hackable,” said Rick Wilson, a longtime Republican operative who has turned his Twitter feed into a loathe-fest of Donald Trump.
“This is real. There is an actual pathway here,” he said. “I think we will know in the next week to 10 days [if this can work], and I think the probability is higher than most people think.”
Some in the Republican Party say it’s not too late to mount a third-party challenge to Donald Trump.
Talk of a third-party run has been percolating for weeks, if not months — the volume of it directly correlated to the likelihood of a Trump victory — with the idea being that such a bid could deny both Trump and Hillary Clinton the 270 electoral college votes needed to win (a real long shot) and/or bring Republican voters disaffected by Trump’s candidacy out to the polls (more feasible). But it’s always been tempered by real-world restrictions.
The deadline to appear on the ballot in Texas passed just this Monday, meaning the Lone Star State’s 38 electoral votes are likely out of the picture, absent a successful lawsuit. In addition, between today and the end of June, at least three other states — Illinois, Indiana and North Carolina — have deadlines, accounting for an additional 34 electoral votes (North Carolina’s deadline being the soonest). After June, a third-party candidate would face more and more deadlines for appearing on the ballot — a task made more difficult due to the patchwork of complex rules and regulations concerning ballot access across the country.
“I don’t know whether someone can get on in all 50 states and D.C. But I think it’s still possible to get on enough states through petitioning, to capture 270 electoral votes. I think it’s more than a theoretical possibility,” said Matt Sawyer, a Dallas-based ballot access specialist who was involved in an effort to draft U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis into the race.
Trump’s emergence as the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee this past week has added urgency to the effort. Joel Searby, a Republican strategist who is directly involved in coordinating a third-party run, said that offers to help from fellow Republicans have amplified in recent days. “That would be putting it mildly,” he said.
Donors have pledged money; operatives have said they’d help with door knocking and signature gathering; and, most intriguingly, Republican lawyers have volunteered free legal assistance.
“I know for a fact that legal challenges are being discussed and prepared for in both [Texas and North Carolina] by folks who would want to make sure there is a path,” Searby said.
Operatives involved with a prospective third-party run believe there is valuable precedent for contesting ballot access laws. During the 1980 presidential campaign, former Illinois Rep. John B. Anderson had sought the Republican presidential nomination before dropping out and declaring his intention to run as an independent candidate. He had already missed deadlines to file to appear on the ballot in five states — but he circulated petitions for signatures there anyway. In July and August of 1980, he successfully sued to get on the ballot in all five states.
Of course, in order to successfully contest ballot access in court, one must have standing to sue. And without a candidate in the race, anti-Trump forces would be hard-pressed to show a judge how a personal legal interest has been invaded by the defendant.
“Each day that passes makes a third-party run harder,” said Rick Hasen, an elections law expert who teaches at the University of California, Irvine. “Collecting signatures in states takes time and considerable effort. And as state deadlines pass, it becomes necessary to try to sue in court to get deadlines extended. It would not be easy.”
Indeed, Wilson freely admits that one of the biggest hurdles facing the third-party, #NeverTrump movement right now is actually finding a formal leader. And one of the reasons it’s proving so difficult is the intense sociopolitical pressure that such a person would have to confront.
“Trump is such an asshole, and the people who surround him and his troll army and all this other stuff, they are aggressively dickish to all other forms of human life. So that’s clearly in some people’s head spaces,” Wilson said. “We are looking at other political figures and business figures now. That is where we are focusing our efforts. But it’s a tough hill to climb.”
Should an actual candidate emerge, he or she would have to decide which party should serve as their banner. While clear options already exist, one available avenue would be simply to start from scratch with a new party (perhaps even named the #NeverTrump Party). In some states, the requirements for appearing on the ballot are less stringent for a candidate of a new party than they are for independent candidates. In Florida, for example, all a party must do to appear on the ballot is submit to the state elections office a list of names and addresses of 29 party officers, including members of its executive committee, and a copy of its constitution. Independent candidates, by contrast, must submit 119,316 signatures no later than July 15 — an effort that would take considerable time and resources.
That’s exactly what Ralph Nader did during the 2008 presidential campaign, when he failed to get on the ballot as an independent in some states. In New Mexico, for example, Nader got on the ballot under the Independent Party, which was made up of his supporters, by submitting one-sixth of the number of signatures normally required of an independent candidate.
“These laws are a mess, they’re completely irrational,” said ballot access expert Richard Winger.
Searby was notably coy when asked if a full-on new political party was in the works. “There is no doubt that there are big questions about the future of party politics in America and those questions will be actively researched and discussed,” he emailed. But Wilson suggested that the anti-Trump forces would explore different party affiliations in different states, should they need to scramble for ballot access.
First, however, they must convince the rest of the party that it’s worth the time and commitment and the potential fissure with pro-Trump forces. In a reflection of the dire straits the #NeverTrump movement finds itself in, Sen. Ted Cruz, the party’s second-place vote-getter, appeared unconvinced of a last minute third-party bid to deny Trump the presidency.
“I don’t think that’s very likely,” Cruz said Tuesday. “It’s always talked about, I don’t think it’s something that’s likely to happen.”
October 26, 1999
News on Matthew Sawyer from the New York Times.
"Buchanan Bolts G.O.P. for Reform Party Run"
By FRANCIS X. CLINES OCT. 26, 1999
Patrick J. Buchanan put aside a lifetime of Republican fervor today and shifted his lagging Presidential quest to a run for the Reform Party nomination.
''Our vaunted two-party system is a snare and a delusion and a fraud upon the nation,'' Mr. Buchanan told a crowd of cheering supporters as he bolted the Republican Party, showing his fiery instinct for insurgency. ''Our two parties have become nothing but two wings on the same bird of prey.''
As visceral on the stump as ever, Mr. Buchanan, his campaign for the Republican nomination frozen in the single-digit doldrums, lambasted the two major parties as havens for big-money donors and ''hollow'' candidates who have ''rigged the game'' against him.
''We choose not to play our assigned walk-on role in their sham election,'' Mr. Buchanan declared to the delight of a partisan crowd that included Reform Party officials and loyalists from his three failed bids for the Republican Presidential nomination.
''Only the Reform Party offers the hope of a real debate and a real choice of destinies,'' he insisted in resorting to the alternative ticket created by Ross Perot as a lever of populist power in the 1992 Presidential election.
In a bizarre contest for the 2000 nomination taking shape between Reform Reform Party factions, Donald J. Trump, the real estate developer, has quit the Republican Party and is threatening to challenge Mr. Buchanan, denouncing him as a ''Hitler lover.'' Gov. Jesse Ventura of Minnesota, the party's major elected figure, openly questions Mr. Buchanan's switch of parties. While Mr. Perot is proclaiming neutrality, even the Buchanan supporters agree that Mr. Perot remains a quixotic figure.
As soon as Mr. Buchanan confirmed his third-party course, he was attacked by Gov. George W. Bush of Texas, the Republican front-runner who is considered the candidate most likely to lose votes next year should Mr. Buchanan attract serious numbers of conservative voters.
Insisting that Mr. Buchanan left the Republican Party for no reason other than a failed candidacy, Mr. Bush criticized Mr. Buchanan's isolationist views, in particular his thesis that Hitler had initially presented no serious threat to the United States in World War II.
''Pat sees an America that should have stayed home while Hitler overran Europe and perpetrated the Holocaust,'' Mr. Bush contended in a statement expressing confidence that most conservative Republicans would not follow Mr. Buchanan. In the weeks before Mr. Buchanan's announcement, Mr. Bush had refrained from harsh criticism in the hope of keeping him in the party.
But Mr. Buchanan hardly apologized for his views as he rued the decline of ''all the great empires of Europe'' and the rise of ''a superstate in Europe that pays homage to the great god Mammon'' which, he said, ties up American soldiers in a ''godless new world order.''
''They call us isolationists, and that's one of the nicest things they call us,'' he declared, drawing laughter from the crowd at the Doubletree Hotel here in the western Washington suburbs, miles from what Mr. Buchanan termed ''the Beltway elites.''
''Well, if they mean I intend to isolate America from all the bloody, territorial, tribal and ethnic wars of the 21st century, I plead guilty!'' he boomed, drawing the crowd to its feet in a wave of applause and cheers.
Once more offering himself as the unabashed candidate of America First policies, Mr. Buchanan vowed to ''rescue our lady, America'' from what he termed ''the cultural and moral pit into which she has fallen.''
''We need a timeout on legal immigration to ease the downward pressure on workers' wages,'' he maintained, ''And to defeat the forces of separatism that threaten us and nations all over the world.''
With fresh campaign logos and a new red, white and blue Internet site (www.buchananreform.com) the 60-year-old politician sought to retool his candidacy with a speech laced with the sorts of lines that first brought him success as a speech writer for President Richard M. Nixon.
The crowd roared as he denounced President Clinton as ''our own Elmer Gantry, whose desecration of the temples of our civilization and personal misconduct disqualify him'' as the nation's leader.
Supporters roared again as Mr. Buchanan declared, ''The appeasement of Beijing is a bipartisan disgrace!''
And they stood and cheered as he bitterly denounced the Supreme Court and vowed to ''herd the Justices back into the narrow stalls'' of constitutionalism. ''What is a self-governing people doing meekly waiting each week for nine jurists to tell us how we may live and how we should govern ourselves?'' he demanded, playing to the libertarian instincts of the Reform Party even as he denounced the legalization of abortion in ''that abomination they call Roe v. Wade.''
Wielding a palette filled with shades of national sovereignty, Mr. Buchanan attacked employment quotas as un-American, declaring: ''The backsliding toward hyphenated Americanism must end.'' In short order, he attacked the United Nations, global economic treaties and ''I.M.F. bailouts of deadbeat dictators.''
In abandoning a Republican primary contest dominated solidly so far by Mr. Bush, Mr. Buchanan set a course in which he must now fight state by state to win support for the nomination.
''We've got to get on 30 ballots,'' said Bay Buchanan, Mr. Buchanan's sister and chief strategist.
Ms. Buchanan noted the campaign had hired Matt Sawyer, an election law specialist who had helped Mr. Perot navigate the thicket of widely varying state election laws.
Beyond the 30 states on which Ms. Buchanan is focusing, the Reform Party was already established in 20 states where the Buchanan camp was counting on help from such party veterans as Pat Choate, Mr. Perot's confidante and former Vice-Presidential running mate. Mr. Choate has been openly piloting Mr. Buchanan's veer toward the Reform ticket.
Reform Party rules require a prospective nominee to try to qualify for the ballot in the 29 states, plus the District of Columbia, where the party does not have an automatic slot. The nominee will be selected at a party convention in July.
Mr. Choate conceded Mr. Buchanan might have a problem because of the opposition expressed by Governor Ventura, who is encouraging talk of a Trump candidacy.
''It's not helpful, but it will not keep him from getting the nomination,'' Mr. Choate said of Mr. Buchanan's chances, estimating that the enthusiastic crowd here of more than 300 people included a majority of the party's current state chairmen.
Republicans have asserted that money, not principle, prompted the switch by Mr. Buchanan. The Reform nominee will be entitled to $12.6 million in Federal campaign funds. But Bay Buchanan said that was not reason for the Reform venture, while Mr. Buchanan insisted that disgust drove him from the Republican Party.
''The Republican Party has been good to me,'' he told the crowd. ''And I have tried to be loyal to it. But as John F. Kennedy said, 'Sometimes party loyalty asks too much.' And today, it asks too much of us.''
Expressing anguish at quitting his life-long party, Mr. Buchanan nonetheless beamed in summoning his followers to a new course, using his old imagery of an assault on the castle of the establishment.
''You don't know this peasant army,'' he said, grinning. ''We have not yet begun to fight.''
Mr. Buchanan, ever a history buff, noted this was St. Crispin's Day -- a reference to King Henry V's defeat of the superior forces of France at Agincourt on this day in 1415. ''Let's make a little history,'' he said, looking eager as he took up a different battle flag.
June 14, 2016
More news on Matthew Sawyer from The Hill.
"Romney Ally Working on Ballot Access for Potential Independent Candidate"
By Jonathan Easley
A Mitt Romney ally has launched a group that will work to ensure that a potential independent candidate for president can make it on the ballot in all 50 states should that person emerge to challenge Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton in the general election.
Conservative donor John Kingston will act as chairman of Better for America, which says it will have the framework in place for the late entrance of an independent candidate into the general election.
The group claims there is still time for a viable independent candidate to emerge and meet the cumbersome ballot access requirements that are a hurdle for any third-party candidate.
Many conservatives who oppose Trump hope that Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee, would enter the race as an independent, but Romney has repeatedly said he would not. At the same time, he continues to attack Trump.
In addition to Kingston, Better for America counts Anne MacDonald, the former chief of staff for first lady Laura Bush, as an adviser.
“We have built a dedicated, experienced team with expertise in legal, political, grassroots, digital, communications, and other fields that we’ll need to get this job done,” MacDonald said in a statement. “We are full-speed ahead on getting ballot access readied for a candidate worthy of this great country.”
Pollster Joel Searby and conservative lawyers Mohammad Jazil and Matthew Sawyer are also on the team. Sawyer notably served as general council to Ross Perot’s Reform Party bid in 1996, in which he took 8 percent of the vote.
Polls show the public is deeply dissatisfied with the two presumptive major party nominees, Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, the former two-term Republican governor of New Mexico, will be on the ballot in all 50 states, but groups interested in an alternative to Trump and Clinton have so far shunned him.
Still, attempts by small factions of “Never Trump” conservatives to recruit an independent alternative have so far fizzled.
The last potential candidate, National Review writer David French, who was recruited by Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, announced last week he’d pass on a bid because he didn’t see a path to the White House.
Deadlines to make the ballot in Texas, South Dakota and North Carolina have already passed. Deadlines in Illinois, Indiana and New Mexico come at the end of the month and require between 15,000 and 25,000 signatures.
Better for America claims it can legally challenge those deadlines and obtain extensions.
In addition to working on ballot access, the group says it will act as “the gathering place for the tens of millions of Americans who are deeply disappointed with these two presidential candidates, and the political process that produced them.”
September 19, 2016
More news on Matthew Sawyer from The Dallas Morning News.
"Independent Presidential Candidate Rocky de la Fuente Sues Texas Over Ballot Access"
By Jamie Lovegrove Follow @jslovegrove email@example.com
Published: 19 September 2016 01:35 PM Updated: 19 September 2016 03:52 PM
WASHINGTON — Independent presidential candidate Rocky de la Fuente has sued the Texas secretary of state in a last-ditch bid to get his name on the state’s ballot.
De la Fuente, a California businessman who previously ran in the Democratic presidential primary, filed a preliminary injunction request in U.S. District Court in Austin on Sept. 8. If the court rejects his plea to have his name added to the ballot, the suit also seeks to have him included on the list of declared write-in candidates in the state.
Under Texas ballot access requirements, independent presidential candidates have 68 days to gather 79,939 valid signatures — 1 percent of the total votes cast in the state in the 2012 presidential election — from voters who did not participate in either the Democratic or Republican primaries.
The deadline for independents to file in Texas was May 9, a month before any other state, before either of the two major parties had selected their nominees, and also before the filing deadline for independent candidates running for other offices in Texas.
“This is obviously an undue burden to independent presidential candidates seeking access to the Texas ballot,” de la Fuente’s lawyers wrote.
A provision known as the “sore loser” law prevents candidates who run in a party primary from also running as an independent. De la Fuente’s lawyers argue that this provision adds an additional burden that is not prescribed in the Constitution.
"These requirements just need to go," said Matthew Sawyer, one of two lawyers representing de la Fuente. "It's kept people from qualifying left and right."
De la Fuente’s application to become a write-in candidate in Texas was also rejected earlier this month because he participated in the Democratic primary. His lawyers argue that this was a misapplication of the “sore loser” law, which they say should apply only to independent candidates and not write-ins.
Texas election lawyer Buck Wood, who has tried similar cases at the state level, said it would be “almost physically impossible” for de la Fuente to receive a favorable ruling to get his name added to the ballot this late in the process.
The deadline for military and overseas ballots to be mailed out is Sept. 24. Though a court would have the ability to order the secretary of state to reprint ballots, judges take into consideration the level of disruption that a ruling would cause to the election and have historically been reluctant to intervene so late in the process.
But it would be less burdensome for the state to add someone to the list of declared write-in candidates. As recently as last Friday, independent Evan McMullin was certified as a write-in after replacing an ineligible elector.
Wood said that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is particularly hesitant to strike down ballot access laws, as demonstrated by Ralph Nader’s failed effort to get on the Texas ballot as an independent in 2004.
Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News, said it will be difficult for de la Fuente to secure injunctive relief at this point, but he is optimistic that de la Fuente could secure a declarative judgment after the election to change the law for 2020 if he continues to pursue the case.
“Since it would be after the election, the judge would be much more relaxed because judges hate to decide who should be on the ballot,” Winger said. “We have a far greater chance of success after the election to change the law for 2020.”
Winger said he believes that de la Fuente will follow through and take the case into next year, even though it will be too late to affect this election.
“Rocky understands that what he’s doing has historical importance that is bigger than just him,” Winger said.
As of the filing date of de la Fuente’s complaint, he had qualified for the ballot in 18 states. In five states he will be the American Delta Party candidate, in two states he is on the ballot as the Reform Party candidate, and in 11 states he will appear on the ballot as an independent candidate.
The suit will be heard in court next Wednesday. The secretary of state has yet to file any defense in the case.
August 16, 2016
More news on Matthew Sawyer from The Dallas Morning News.
"Ex-CIA Officer Running for President will Sue Texas to get on Ballot"
By Jamie Lovegrove Follow @jslovegrove firstname.lastname@example.org
Published: 16 August 2016 11:00 AM Updated: 16 August 2016 02:28 PM
WASHINGTON — Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin, an ex-CIA officer and congressional policy wonk who launched his campaign last week to offer “Never Trump” Republicans a conservative option, faces a steep political challenge gaining enough support to affect the November election.
And by jumping into the race so late, McMullin will need to clear significant legal hurdles, as well. Filing deadlines for independent candidates in more than half of the states have already passed, and several more deadlines are fast approaching.
That will mean going to court — including in Texas, where an independent had to gather nearly 80,000 signatures by May.
“Our intention in Texas is to file a legal challenge, and we think that the great people of Texas will agree with us that there shouldn’t be artificial boundaries on the kinds of people that can run for president,” said Joel Searby, the campaign’s chief strategist.
Noting that Texas’ May 9 petition deadline — by far the earliest in the country — fell long before the Democratic and Republican nominating conventions, Searby argues that prospective independent candidates were unable to take into consideration the choices of the two major parties before deciding whether to run.
“There’s just so many restrictions on ballot access in Texas, and Texas is generally a very open and independent and free-thinking kind of place,” Searby said. “So we don’t think the people of Texas are going to want to keep that law.”
A general counsel is coordinating the campaign’s ballot access efforts across multiple states, Searby said, and the campaign has also been in touch with Texas lawyers. Garland attorney Matthew Sawyer, who worked on Texas business magnate Ross Perot’s Reform Party presidential run in 1996, has reportedly been involved with the effort. Reached by phone last week, Sawyer directed all questions to the campaign.
Ballot access experts are split on McMullin’s chances of winning a federal lawsuit. To Richard Winger, the editor of Ballot Access News and a longtime activist on the issue, McMullin’s case is a slam dunk, particularly in Texas.
“Texas is in a class by itself. The Texas deadline is impossible to defend,” Winger said. Pointing to the later deadline for independent candidates running for offices in Texas other than president, Winger contends there is “powerful evidence that the presidential deadline is unconstitutional, and that’s all he needs to show.”
But prominent Texas election attorney Buck Wood, who has represented several state-level candidates challenging independent ballot restrictions in the past, sees it exactly the other way.
“I don’t see any possibility of him getting on the ballot in Texas,” Wood said. “Just because you made your decision too late is not an excuse. You have to go back and say, even had we made the decision back then, it still would have been so onerous as to have been unconstitutional, and the chances of that are nil.”
Tough path to ballot
Under the law, an independent in Texas has to get signatures from registered voters totaling 1 percent of those who cast ballots for the office in the last general election. Based on 2012 turnout, that’s 79,939. The signatures can’t be taken until the primaries are over. And they can’t come from just any voter — only those who skip both major parties’ primaries can sign.
It’s one of the tougher paths to the ballot in any state. But past challenges to ballot requirements have been met with mixed results.
In the landmark 1983 case of Anderson vs. Celebrezze, the Supreme Court ruled that Ohio’s process was unconstitutionally burdensome. But in that instance, the deadline was 75 days prior to the state’s presidential primaries. In Texas, the deadline is 70 days after.
Still, Searby contends, Texas’ date passed long before voters and prospective candidates could make an informed decision about whether the two major-party candidates were adequate. And Winger argues that there is no good reason for the independent candidate petition deadline to be linked to the state’s primary date at all.
“The independent presidential deadline is just an accident of sloppy bill-drafting,” Winger said. “None of the other deadlines in Texas law are keyed to the primary. So when Texas moved their primary from May to March, they just accidentally ruined the independent presidential deadline. They were just thoughtless.”
Donald Trump’s last standing Republican challengers, Sen. Ted Cruz and Ohio Gov. John Kasich, dropped out less than a week before the Texas deadline. And Trump didn’t clinch the required number of delegates to officially secure the nomination until May 26.
Texas has not been particularly open to challenges to the ballot rules in the past. In 2004, U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel of Austin ruled against Ralph Nader in a similar attempt to have the Texas regulations ruled unconstitutional. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld that decision.
And Nader’s case was arguably much stronger than McMullin’s. He had entered the race in February and claimed in court that his Texas supporters had already collected more than 50,000 signatures by the May 10 deadline. He eventually submitted 80,044 signatures two weeks after it.
Judge Yeakel nevertheless ruled that the Texas requirements “do not create the manifest injustice and discrimination urged by Nader.”
Back in 1976, Eugene McCarthy had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to secure emergency relief to get on the Texas ballot after the 5th Circuit rejected his plea. But in that instance, the state had provided no process at all for an independent candidate to petition for access.
A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, whose office determines the validity of ballot petitions, declined to comment on the constitutionality of the law.
“We don’t express opinions on what is a legislative discussion,” said the aide, Alicia Pierce. “The law is what it is.”
But if McMullin is successful, the challenge could have broad consequences for Texas election law and affect ballot access rules across the country.
“That’s part of the vision for this effort is to bring ballot access laws across the country more into alignment with the Constitution and what the people of the United States want,” Searby said.
The whole ballgame
Even if McMullin can persuade the courts to strike down Texas’ deadline as unconstitutional, he would still then need to show that he has a modicum of support in order to get on the ballot. He’s not well known yet and has not been featured in any national polls.
Public Policy Polling conducted a Texas poll last week and tweeted Monday that McMullin was included. But only three respondents chose him, the firm said, rounding down to zero percent.
McMullin did make it onto his first state ballot last week in Colorado, and on Monday, he announced that he will be on the ballot in his home state of Utah. He has also successfully persuaded the Independence Party of Minnesota to nominate him.
If McMullin’s Texas challenge fails, his campaign still plans to pursue an aggressive write-in campaign. But even becoming a write-in candidate in Texas requires a formal declaration to be filed by Aug. 22, and the ticket must include a running mate, which the McMullin campaign has yet to announce.
Republican consultant Rick Wilson, who is running McMullin’s campaign, says the team is first focused on legal challenges around the country.
“We feel like, with the advice of some of the best legal minds on this matter in the country, that we have a very good shot in a number of places,” Wilson said.
Searby said that Republican donors in Texas have offered to contribute to the campaign.
But Austin-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak questioned whether they will have enough resources to wage a serious statewide effort.
“Name ID is the whole ballgame for someone like this that’s running an independent bid, and that’s an immense challenge in a state as large and expensive as Texas,” Mackowiak said.
Mackowiak, who has been outspoken about his disagreements with Trump, said there are many Texas conservatives unhappy with the Republican nominee whom McMullin could target. But he does not expect any elected Republican officials in Texas to break ranks and endorse the independent.
“There’s a lot about him that’s appealing,” Mackowiak said. “He’s got legitimate professional experience in different areas, he appears to be a very thoughtful, substantive, reasonable person. You could make a pretty strong case that he’s the strongest conservative in the race. But the question is can he get started?”
Searby insists the McMullin campaign will be active in Texas, which he says holds plenty of disaffected voters available to be picked up.
“We admire Senator Cruz for his courageous stand at the RNC,” Searby said when asked if he saw any opportunities from the discord stemming from Cruz's refusal to endorse Trump at last month’s convention. “What he does with this election is up to him. But we certainly think that there’s a lot of people in Texas that are going to really like Evan.”
More news on Matthew Sawyer from The New York Times.
"Conservative Donor’s Group Presses Ballot Access for a Third-Party Candidate"
By MAGGIE HABERMAN JUNE 14, 2016
A conservative donor who has been scouring Republican ranks for a third-party candidate is pressing ahead with a group to get on the ballot in dozens of states. The candidate will come once the group sees that the ballot access is possible.
The donor, John Kingston, a bundler and ally of Mitt Romney, said he will bankroll a ballot-access project to create a path for someone to run as another option. The effort is being called Better for America.
The idea is “to do a proof of concept for everybody,” Mr. Kingston said. “It exists, there is a pathway, there is a road that you can be going down.”
The Massachusetts man was heavily involved in efforts led by the Weekly Standard editor William Kristol to find a challenger to both Hillary Clinton and Donald J. Trump for a third-party line. His approach is similar to one used by a group, Americans Elect, in 2012, when it tried creating a ballot line unattached to a major party.
Better for America has Mr. Kingston working with the pollster Joel Searby as the chief strategist, as well as the lawyers Mohammad Jazil and Matthew Sawyer. Mr. Sawyer was the general counsel for the Texas business magnate H. Ross Perot’s Reform Party presidential run in 1996. Anne MacDonald, who was the chief of staff to the first lady Laura Bush, is also advising the group.
Members of the group said the project gives a shot at getting on the ballot almost everywhere, even with deadlines to do so having passed for Texas and North Carolina.
This week is crucial because a number of the states’ ballot access deadlines are due.
“On the ballot access side of this we’re all heads down and focusing on this as much as we can,” Mr. Sawyer said.
He and Mr. Jazil said that about a dozen lawyers are working on the project, and that they believe they can still get on the ballot in North Carolina and Texas through the courts.
The effort remains quixotic, and is plainly in part a “Stop Trump” effort, despite the failure of such attempts in the past. Mr. Searby, in an interview, acknowledged that he became serious about this since February, as he watched Mr. Trump’s rise in the primaries, and as his comments have become more incendiary.
“We do not have to be boxed in by this Hobson’s choice moment of Evil No. 1 or Slightly Less Evil No. 2,” Mr. Kingston said, referring to the major parties’ presumptive nominees Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton.
He would not say how much he is spending, although he said it is “less than seven figures.”
“This doesn’t become real unless people get behind it,” Mr. Kingston said.
That has been his problem so far. While Mr. Romney and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska were aggressively recruited by Mr. Kristol, both have declined.
Mr. Kingston does not see the Libertarian Party ticket as viable, either, despite the presence of William Weld, the former Massachusetts governor, as the vice-presidential candidate.
“You saw the convention,” Mr. Kingston said, referring to the Florida-based political event in late May when Mr. Weld and Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, were selected. One of the convention’s participants, a candidate for party chairman, took his clothes off.
“I just don’t think that’s where the American people are,” Mr. Kingston said. “I think if Bill Weld was at the top of the ticket and it would be a totally different framework, then it would be something.”
March 12, 2016
The latest news on Matthew Sawyer from Politico.
"GOP donors pushing Condoleezza Rice to run independent campaign"
By Matt Dixon 6:33 p.m. | Mar. 10, 2016
TALLAHASSEE — A group of Republican donors and strategists has been working to persuade former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to make an independent bid for president, according to a memo outlining the plan obtained by POLITICO Florida.
The group has grown increasingly dissatisfied with New York billionaire Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner who has roiled the party’s establishment as he has surged ahead in the polls.
“The reality of the matter is that we will have President Trump or President Clinton — if we don’t have President Rice,” read the memo, which was written by Joel Searby, a consultant with Florida-based GOP firm Data Targeting.
POLITICO reported last month about a memo that a group of donors was working on with Data Targeting to look at the viability of a third-party run amid Trump’s ascent. The newest memo, sent Thursday, is an update on the firm’s work.
“We have been in touch with Dr. Rice through her chief of staff,” read the plan, which is stamped “confidential.” “She is reluctant at this stage. We are asking for anyone wanting to assist to encourage her to run.”
Trump currently has a nearly 100-delegate lead over second-place Ted Cruz, and a more than 300-delegate lead over Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Trump is polling strong in states set to hold their primaries on Tuesday, including Florida and North Carolina, where 171 delegates are at stake.
The memo also lists a partial roster of the “informal advisory group,” which includes Matthew Sawyer, a Dallas-based attorney specializing in ballot access; David Nolte, a media consultant; Mohammad Jazil, an attorney with Hopping Green & Sams; and Sarah Bascom, a Tallahassee-based Republican communications consultant.
The list also includes Data Targeting and donors. Names associated with polling, petition gathering, state-by-state organizing and finance were blacked out in the memo.
The group of people helping make the decisions was kept small by design, as donors want to keep a small inner circle during the initial stages.
“You will note the obvious absence of the beltway pundit set, the super consultants and 501(c)4 gurus,” Searby wrote. “We have tremendous respect for many of them … but for now, it’s clear from the donors supporting this that they are wanting a lean, men, clear look at this, without back-channel drama or vendor infighting.”
The memo does outline some of the group’s early polling work, which they say shows Rice as the only candidate with viable numbers in a three-way race with Trump and Clinton. Her favorability was at least 15 points higher than its unfavorability in nearly every battleground state where they were in the field.
Rice, who is black, also gets between 10-25 percent with black and Hispanic voters in a three-way ballot test with Trump and Clinton in states they polled, according to the memo.
If Rice agrees to run, the plan’s first step will be focusing on North Carolina and Texas as a measure of her viability. Rice would need to gather over 79,900 valid petition signatures in Texas by May 9 and over 89,000 in North Carolina by June 9.
“We will have to assess the reality of going forward if we do not get on the ballot in those stats,” Searby wrote.
He wrote that the ultimate end game is simple: Stop Clinton.
“This has grown more urgent and more important, we believe, as the prospect of a brokered convention is floated,” he wrote. “It is this group’s belief that a brokered convention is a recipe for Hillary Clinton’s election and the death of the Republican Party.”
Both Data Targeting and Bascom declined to comment other than authenticating the memo.
Read the memo here: http://politi.co/1SE2dhg
--additional reporting by Scott BlandMarch 12th, 2016