Judge keeps Chris Christie off Maine’s Republican primary ballot

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s latest attempt to get on the Maine Republican presidential primary ballot failed Thursday after his campaign tried to recover from a surprising setback in the Super Tuesday state. 

Earlier this month, the Maine Secretary of State’s office said that Christie’s campaign fell short of the necessary number of certified signatures needed from Maine voters to qualify for the state’s Republican presidential primary. 

His campaign appealed the decision, but a Maine Superior Court judge sided on Thursday with the secretary of state’s handling of the situation. 

“We appreciate that the court upheld the integrity of Maine’s well-established ballot access requirements,” Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said in a statement. “Every candidate, including presidential candidates, must follow the law to qualify for the ballot. We are glad that the court recognized that Maine law is workable and fair to all.” 

Earlier this month, Maine Director of Elections Heidi M. Peckham said in a letter that Christie’s campaign had only turned in 844 of the minimum 2,000 certified signatures required to appear on the ballot. 

Candidates faced a requirement of filing signatures with municipal clerks for certification before submitting them to the secretary of state’s office. 

A Christie spokesperson responded at the time that the campaign had gathered 6,000 signatures, arguing it was “simply a procedural issue with the way they reviewed signatures and is under appeal.”

But the arguments put forward by Christie’s campaign failed to change the stance in the  Maine case. 

In a statement to CBS News Thursday following the ruling, a spokesperson for Christie’s campaign said that “we disagree with the court’s decision, and we are evaluating our options.”

According to the decision by Maine Superior Court Justice Julia M. Lipez, Christie “did not separate petition forms by town, as instructed by the Secretary, or, in the alternative, give himself sufficient time to bring those multi-town signature sheets to the relevant municipalities before the November 20 deadline.”

Christie still has the option to file as a write-candidate in Maine. The deadline to do so is Dec. 26, according to the secretary of state’s office.

The news is the latest trouble for the Christie campaign as he faces pressure to drop out of the race and help consolidate support around an alternative candidate to former President Donald Trump, the frontrunner in the GOP race. Christie’s strategy has centered around going all in on the Jan. 23 New Hampshire primary. His campaign has maintained he has a path after the contest, but the struggles in Maine threaten to undercut that tone. 

Leading Republican presidential candidates, and even some longshots, are set to be on the ballot in the Maine contest on March 5. Those include Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and pastor Ryan Binkley.

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