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Judge Orders Jim Bennett On Special Election Ballot

Julia Ritchey, KUER

A federal judge has ordered the state to put candidate Jim Bennett on the ballot for a special election to replace former Congressman Jason Chaffetz.

Bennett is the nominee of a new political party, the United Utah Party, which sued Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox for refusing to put Bennett on the November ballot.

In a court hearing last month, the state had argued that the party had not met the certification deadline and could not be placed on the ballot, but said Bennett could file as a write-in candidate.

“The state’s interests do not require or justify effectively barring UUP and its candidate, Mr. Bennett, from participating in the special election as a new political party,” U.S. District Court Judge David Nuffer wrote in a ruling Wednesday.

Nuffer agreed with The UUP’s argument that the state’s special election procedures violated Bennett’s First and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Bennett and founders of the new political party lauded the decision.

“We knew this was right from the very beginning when I originally attempted to file, but unfortunately we’ve had to fight to prove what the state was doing was unconstitutional,” Bennett said.

The Lt. Governor’s office says it will comply with the order. “Our decisions were never specific to Mr. Bennett or the United Utah Party, or intended to disfavor them in any way,”Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox said in a statement Wednesday afternoon. 

Bennett will now face Democratic candidate Kathie Allen, the winner of the Aug. 15 Republican primary. The general election is Nov. 7.

Nicole Nixon holds a Communication degree from the University of Utah. She has worked on and off in the KUER Newsroom since 2013, when she first joined KUER as an intern. Nicole is a Utah native. Besides public radio, she is also passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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