Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes made it clear on Wednesday that he believes former President Donald Trump cannot be barred from pursuing a presidential bid in the state, despite what a pair of prominent liberal and conservative legal scholars have claimed.
He emphasized that despite the arguments presented in an op-ed published by The Atlantic to disqualify President Trump from the 2024 presidential race, citing the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Mr. Fontes's hands are tied by a precedent set by a previous Arizona Supreme Court ruling.
Quoting the ruling, Mr. Fontes said, "You can't enforce it." He went on to express his personal disagreement with the court's decision, labeling it as "stupid."
The argument is specifically referring to section 3 of the 14th Amendment, and its stipulation that individuals who have "engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the government are ineligible for holding public office.
"This protection, embodied in the amendment’s often-overlooked Section 3, automatically excludes from future office and position of power in the United States government—and also from any equivalent office and position of power in the sovereign states and their subdivisions—any person who has taken an oath to support and defend our Constitution and thereafter rebels against that sacred charter, either through overt insurrection or by giving aid or comfort to the Constitution’s enemies," they wrote.
They contend that the attempted overturning of the 2020 presidential election, coupled with the events at the U.S. Capitol, unequivocally place President Trump within the ambit of Section 3's disqualification clause.
However, Mr. Fontes pointed out that the Arizona Supreme Court had previously determined that enforcing this disqualification is not feasible due to the absence of a specific statutory mechanism within federal law to do so.
“The Arizona Supreme Court said that because there's no statutory process in federal law to enforce Section 3 of the 14th amendment, you can't enforce it," Mr. Fontes said. "That's what the Arizona Supreme Court said. That's the state of the law in Arizona. Now, do I agree with that? No. That's stupid.”
Mr. Fontes offered a hypothetical scenario to illustrate his position. He questioned whether, in the absence of a statutory scheme to enforce criteria such as natural-born citizenship or age restrictions, individuals from foreign countries or even 25-year-olds could run for president in Arizona.
"According to the logic of the Arizona Supreme Court, they do," he added, arguing that the court's conclusion, which is based on the absence of enforcement mechanisms, is flawed and lacks a comprehensive resolution.
Mr. Fontes explained that the court's interpretation of the law has limited the avenues available for him to act upon the demands to exclude President Trump from the ballot.
Despite his personal disagreement with the court's decision, Mr. Fontes stressed his commitment to adhering to the established legal framework and upholding Arizona law.
"What I'm saying is I'm going to follow the law,” he clarified when asked if his hands were tied in qualifying candidates. “And the law in Arizona is what the law in Arizona is. Whether I like it or not, is irrelevant."
He added that there is the potential for the Arizona Supreme Court's decision to be challenged in a judicial action. He noted that there are varying voices and opinions on President Trump's eligibility.