PORT ORCHARD — Frankey Ithaka will be in a courtroom Tuesday fighting to keep Donald Trump off Washington’s presidential primary and general election ballots.
Pointing to Trump’s actions on the day his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, she and seven other Kitsap County voters contend in a legal filing that the former president should be disqualified because he “engaged in an insurrection” and “attempted to overthrow the election of Joe Biden through violence.”
Ithaka, who was surprised no one else was trying to take action like this in Washington state, credits Secretary of State Steve Hobbs for getting her this far.
The middle school teacher from Port Orchard was listening to Hobbs explain in a radio interview earlier this month how Washington laws preclude voter challenges until after the Jan. 9 deadline for the state’s Democratic and Republican parties to submit names for the ballots. He mapped out the process from there.
“I wouldn’t have known what to do without hearing that interview,” she said.
Kitsap County Superior Court Judge Jennifer Forbes is scheduled to consider the voters’ request at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Forbes wants Hobbs and Kitsap County Auditor Paul Andrews to attend and respond. Leaders of the state Republican and Democratic parties are also invited. Hobbs is expected to be represented at the proceeding by the Attorney General’s Office.
“Our state’s process gives the courts an important role in answering questions about eligibility. I look forward to having this question resolved in a timely fashion,” Hobbs said in a statement.
The Washington State Republican Party “may or may not send someone over to watch this pathetic show,” party chair Jim Walsh said in an email.
“This is a ridiculous bit of political theater, proving — once again — that Donald Trump is hugely important to low-information eccentrics on the left-wing of American politics,” he wrote. “Eccentric readings of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution by angry weirdos have nothing to do with the upcoming presidential election.”
Shasti Conrad, chair of the state Democratic Party, said she won’t be there either.
“We are neutral about these efforts. It is not our responsibility to clean up the Republican Party,” she wrote in an email.
President Joe Biden, Minnesota Congressman Dean Phillips and self-help author Marianne Williamson are the Democratic hopefuls.
There are five Republican candidates: Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Christie’s name will appear because he did not suspend his campaign before Tuesday’s deadline.
What Ithaka learned from Hobbs’ radio interview was that she only had 48 hours in which to file an affidavit in court to keep Trump off the ballot.
She pointed to a state law that says committing a “wrongful act” is enough reason for making a candidate ineligible.
“I would say insurrection qualifies as wrongdoing,” Ithaka said.
With the help of Robert Brem, also of Port Orchard, they penned the affidavit. It was a single paragraph.
Their effort, like ones underway in other states, is based on Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that disqualifies government officials who “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” from holding office.
The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that provision does apply to Trump when it ordered his name removed from that state’s primary ballot. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal of the case in February.
On Friday, the Oregon Supreme Court said it would defer to the nation’s high court and would not hear a case challenging the former president’s ability to appear on Oregon ballots.
Ithaka said when she told friends what she was doing, they wanted to support the effort. They gathered Tuesday to sign the affidavit and get it notarized.
There’s no national political organization driving their pursuit as in other states. They said they’re not acting on behalf of any political party or partisan outfit. They don’t have a lawyer — although they’d welcome one willing to work pro bono.
“We’re political scientists and political theorists,” she said.
Brem teaches political science courses virtually for California State University East Bay. In his classes, he touches on the importance of an engaged citizenry, he said.
“I can’t teach that if I’m not going to live it,” he said. “Our concern was, ‘If not us, who?’”
Jerry Cornfield writes for the Washington State Standard (https://washingtonstatestandard.com), an independent, nonprofit news organization that produces original reporting on policy and politics.