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Missouri GOP tries to kick ‘honorary KKK member’ out of Republican governor primary

A man wearing a denim button-down shirt stands facing the camera. Behind him is a red, white and blue flag of the Missouri State Guard, a military force formed in 1861 to oppose the Union in the Civil War.
Campaign photo
Darrell McClanahan of Milo, Missouri, a candidate for governor who the Missouri Republican Party attempted to remove from the ballot for being an ‘honorary’ KKK member. He is shown in a photo from his 2022 campaign for U.S. Senate, standing in front of the flag of the Missouri State Guard, a military force formed in 1861 to oppose the Union in the Civil War

An attorney for Darrell McClanahan III says the party’s appeal is too late to deny him a spot on the ballot in August.

The Missouri Republican Party is continuing its effort to remove an “honorary KKK member” from the primary ballot for governor, but his attorney says the move comes too late and the party should know it.

On May 17, Cole County Circuit Judge Cotton Walker ruled that Darrell McClanahan III of Milo would remain on the ballot for the GOP nomination for governor. The party’s attorney, Lowell Pearson of Jefferson City, filed a notice of appeal Monday with the Western District Court of Appeals seeking to reverse that decision.

McClanahan, who is listed first on the ballot among nine candidates, is not running a full-scale campaign. He has not organized a committee to raise and spend money on his behalf. Only three contenders – state Sen. Bill Eigel, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe – are running full-scale campaigns, raising and spending millions and traveling extensively.

The appeal is too late, said David Roland, McClanahan’s attorney. Ashcroft certified the list of state candidates and issues on the ballot on June 11 and under state law the courts cannot “order an individual or issue be placed on the ballot less than eight weeks before the date of the election.”

Roland filed a motion seeking to dismiss the appeal and impose sanctions for a frivolous court action.

“There is literally no way that their appeal could succeed,” Roland said in an interview with The Independent. “They were only asking for one thing in their petition, and that was an injunction to prevent his name from being certified for the ballot. That ship sailed back in May when the secretary of state did exactly what the law required him to do, certifying the name for the ballot.”

Pearson declined to comment on the appeal or Roland’s filing.

The state party doesn’t want McClanahan on the ballot because he admitted being an “honorary member” of the Ku Klux Klan in a lawsuit against the Anti-Defamation League. McClanahan also faces felony property damage and stealing charges in a case being heard in Wright County.

The state Republican Party sued Ashcroft to remove McClanahan, but Walker wrote that by accepting his $500 filing fee, the party was stuck with him. McClanahan was a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2022 and his views were known, Walker wrote.

The Republican Party “is a sophisticated entity and the record shows that it was not only aware of a party’s authority to reject a filing fee offered by a candidate,” Walker wrote, “but that segments of the Missouri Republican Party have already adopted a policy of rejecting filing fees from any candidate who has not completed a prescribed vetting process.”

A case from Vernon County, testing whether a political party can reject a filing fee paid at the county clerk’s office to keep a candidate off the ballot, is set for a hearing June 25 before the Western District Court of Appeals.

The Vernon County case was decided May 8 and the appeal began immediately. The appeals court stayed the ruling of the trial court that removed the candidates and set up an expedited process that will test whether the court has authority to act.

The state Republican Party didn’t seek to expedite the case at trial in Cole County and let the ruling become final in the regular legal schedule, Roland wrote in his brief asking the court to dismiss the appeal.

As a major political party, Roland wrote, the GOP “is a sophisticated party well versed in this State’s election laws.”

And Pearson, he wrote, is a “highly respected attorney who is experienced in litigating under this state’s election laws.”

With no ability to provide the relief being sought, Roland wrote, the appeal wastes the court’s time.

“An appeal that presents no justiciable question and is obviously devoid of merit is frivolous,” he wrote.

Because the party didn’t seek to speed up the case or the appeal, Roland said, the court would be unlikely to rule before the primary. No transcript of circuit court proceedings has been requested and the case file has not been prepared, he noted.

“If they were serious about it, they should have already had the transcript prepared,” Roland said. “They should have gone ahead and filed the legal file today alongside their notice of appeal. That is the only possible way they were going to get this case heard before the election.”

This story was originally published by the Missouri Independent.

Rudi Keller covers the state budget, energy and the legislature for the Missouri Independent.
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