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AZ election official rules No Labels can’t block candidates

That could bolster opponents’ efforts to force third-party presidential election campaigns to release more information about their anonymous donors

PHOENIX — Arizona’s top election official says the No Label Party can’t stop candidates from using its ballot lines to run for office, increasing pressure on opponents Third-person presidential election movement Post more information about anonymous donors.

A top official for Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes rejected a request from the group No Labels to exclude two people who filed documents to run for state office without the support of the party leadership . One of the two opposed “no labels” and deliberately tried to force the party to comply with Arizona campaign finance laws.

Fontes’ move is a victory for Democrats and other critics of former President Donald Trump, who argue that a third-party campaign has no chance of winning the presidency but could undermine the election in Trump’s favor. No Labels has qualified for the ballot in 11 states, including Arizona, which has 15,000 registered voters, surpassing President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory margin in the state.

Democrats have long accused the group of unfairly concealing funders of its work and have sought to force No Labels to release the names of its donors. The organization said it is not required to disclose donor information under federal law and is withholding the information to protect their privacy.

Fontes’ office told No Labels in a letter that he is obligated to accept a declaration of intent from anyone who meets the requirements to run for office as the first step in running for office. The letter obtained by The Associated Press on Thursday said that denying their documents would violate their rights.

“The Arizona Secretary of State disagrees with your assertion that newly recognized political parties can choose to deny their own constituents their constitutionally protected freedom of association,” state elections director Colleen Conner wrote in a Sept. 22 letter.

No record company has committed to suing. It asked Fontes to reject two candidacies submitted without its approval, arguing that it does not have to register as a political party or share its financial information under Arizona law because it only wants to compete for federal office.

Leaders say both Arizona law and the U.S. Constitution allow political parties to opt out of elections.

“The decision to write this letter was driven by political pressure, not the law,” No Labels officials Jay Nickerson and Benjamin Chavez Jr. said in a statement. Nickerson is the former Democratic governor of Missouri, and Chavez is the former president of the NAACP. “The Secretary of State’s one-page letter is not a serious response to the demands of the Arizona No Label Party.”

Even if No Label sues and loses, it may not have to disclose its Arizona donors. A complex set of laws outlines the circumstances under which political groups must report financial information aimed at influencing elections.

An No Label Party official in Arizona who spoke on condition of anonymity said the Arizona No Label Party would register as a political party if it raised and spent money, but currently does not have a bank account. The organization funds its activities through nonprofit organizations in Washington.

Two potential candidates in Arizona have so far filed to run for office as members of the No Label Party: Tyson Draper for the U.S. Senate and Richard Gray for the state utility regulator, known as the Corporation Commission Richard Grayson.

Grayson, who supports Biden, recently likened his plan to a “performance art piece.”

Alaska election officials also notified Grayson last week that he would appear as an unlabeled candidate in the state’s U.S. House primary.

Grayson, a perennial candidate who previously ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in Wyoming despite living in Arizona, noted that House candidates only need to live in the state in which they were elected after taking office.

Biden won Arizona by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2020 with a coalition that included conservative independents and moderate Republicans, making the state more attractive to voters if it proves attractive to voters who dislike both candidates. Particularly vulnerable to third-party votes. Like the previous two states, the 2024 race is likely to be narrowly decided in a handful of battleground states.

No Labels plans to spend $70 million, far more than any third-party candidate has raised since Ross Perot’s 1992 and 1996 campaigns, which failed to win any electoral votes.

No Labels officials said they will decide whether to run as a candidate after the Super Tuesday primaries in March.

Arizona has faced some of the toughest resistance at the state level. The state Democratic Party filed a lawsuit to prevent No Labels from participating in the voting, but lost in court. The party later filed a complaint urging Fontes to block the group from the ballot until it complied with campaign finance laws.

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