Democrat files lawsuit to keep GOP candidate off Missouri Senate ballot

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Former state Rep. Stephen Webber of Columbia, a Democratic candidate for state Senate, speaks Feb. 2 at the Camp Carnahan candidate training session in Jefferson City.(Submitted photo).

A Cole County Circuit Court judge has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Friday in a lawsuit filed by Democrat Stephen Webber seeking to block Republican James Coyne from appearing on the ballot as a candidate for the Missouri Senate.

Webber claims Coyne is ineligible to run because the local Republican nominating committee missed a deadline to register his name with Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who is also a defendant in the motion for a temporary restraining order.

Coyne was selected Tuesday night by the Republican Committee for the 19th State Senatorial District to be their candidate for the Boone County-based state Senate seat held by Republican Caleb Rowden, who is leaving office due to term limits.

Coyne officially filed to run in the August primary on Wednesday.

Former state Rep. Chuck Basye was running for the seat but dropped out of the race on April 25 after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The deadline for filing as a candidate in the primary election was March 26.

State law requires the district nominating committee meet to select a new candidate within two weeks of being formally notified by the Secretary of State that a candidate has withdrawn.

In his lawsuit, Webber says Ashcroft notified the Boone County nominating committee of the vacancy on April 25. The nominating committee met on May 5 but failed to select a candidate at that time. Webber claims the selection of Coyne this week falls beyond the deadline for making a nomination.

“The Boone County Republican party has churned through candidates and drug this process out as long as possible,” Webber’s attorney, Chuck Hatfield, said in a statement. “As they continue to push the limits of candidate recruitment we want to make sure that the process they use is fair, transparent and in compliance with our governing documents.”

The lawsuit claims Webber was harmed when Coyne entered the race as he let key staff leave his campaign after Republicans failed to nominate someone at their May 5 meeting.

This story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian. It can be republished in print or online. 

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