AUGUSTA – A Superior Court judge ruled Monday that Maine’s secretary of state acted reasonably in rejecting a Democratic Party challenge to independent Senate hopeful Herbert Hoffman’s ballot eligibility.

Justice Donald Marden issued a 10-page decision saying that Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap’s decision was “not … an abuse of discretion, contrary to law or based upon findings not supported by the evidence.”

Dunlap said state election officials had been confident because they based their decision on “a whole body of precedent.” At the same time, he said a further appeal to the state supreme court would not surprise him.

The Maine Democratic Party has argued that Hoffman should be kicked off the November ballot, alleging that he violated rules for gathering nominating petition signatures.

Democrats are concerned that Hoffman could draw votes away from their party’s Senate nominee, Rep. Tom Allen, in his effort to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Susan Collins.

After a hearing on Hoffman’s case in June, election officials determined his campaign had collected 38 signatures more than the minimum 4,000 needed for ballot listing.

Three signatures

The complaint by John Knutson of Brooklin, chairman of the Maine Democratic Committee, draws special attention to three signatures.

Democrats contend Hoffman, as a sworn petition circulator, failed to properly monitor petition signing and argue that the secretary of state misapplied state law by only invalidating a few signatures rather than voiding entire petitions.

Maine Democratic Party Executive Director Arden Manning said late Monday afternoon he had not yet seen the court ruling and that he anticipated the party would have no immediate comment.

More ahead, maybe

Hoffman indicated he was pleased with the ruling but with a further appeal possible, even after initial action by the secretary of state, a hearing officer’s finding and the secretary of state’s final decision, it might not be the last word.

“This is the fourth time that my name appearing on the November ballot has been affirmed. … I think there’s only one more bite of the apple, as they say,” he said.

State Republican Party Chairman Mark Ellis has called efforts to challenge the candidacy of the retired psychologist from Ogunquit “backwards” and “undemocratic.”


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