PORTLAND (AP) – Maine Senate President Beth Edmonds is going to have a challenger after all, thanks to a Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling.

The court on Thursday overturned a decision by the secretary of state’s office that would have kept John Arsenault from running as a Republican in Senate District 10. Edmonds, a Democrat, had been running unopposed until the court’s unanimous decision.

At issue was a party switch by Arsenault, a former Democrat, before he was nominated to replace Republican candidate Patricia Stasinowsky, who withdrew from the race. Arsenault switched his enrollment on July 21, two days before the GOP committee nominated him.

The secretary of state’s office determined that Arsenault was not qualified because he was not a member of the Republican Party when he was nominated.

Officials cited a statute that bars someone from voting in a caucus, convention or primary election for 15 days after filing the party-change application. In a broader interpretation of the law, they determined that the person could not be a replacement candidate during the 15 days.

The supreme court ruled, however, that the nominating committee was within its right to choose Arsenault.

In a unanimous decision, Justice Susan Calkins wrote that the intent of the law is to keep members of one political party from trying to influence another party’s nominating process. But that concern doesn’t apply to replacement candidates, who are chosen by a committee. There is no requirement that a candidate belong to the nominating party, she wrote.

District 10 includes Brunswick, Freeport, Harpswell and Pownal.

“I am excited to hear that the court has allowed me to be on the ballot,” Arsenault, a Freeport town councilor, said in a prepared statement. “Voters in District 10 will have a real choice for state Senate this November.”

Edmonds’ campaign said it welcomes Arsenault as an opponent in November.

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap said that the law was silent on a replacement candidate’s party enrollment and that the ruling will help guide future decisions.

“I appreciate Mr. Arsenault’s efforts to bring about clarification of the law, and I’m pleased to comply with the court’s ruling,” Dunlap said in a prepared statement.


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