Monday, January 14, 2008

Dennis Kucinich, Willie Nelson and Me

Attorneys for Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich filed notice Monday they are appealing a judge's ruling allowing the Democratic Party to impose a loyalty oath on candidates who seek to be on the Texas ballot.

Kucinich and singer-supporter Willie Nelson are pressing the case, objecting to the Texas Democratic Party's oath that a presidential candidate must "fully support" the party's eventual nominee.

Judge Lee Yeakel ruled Friday the state party has the right to require the oath. Lawyers for Kucinich and Nelson had argued it violated Kucinich's First Amendment right to free speech.

"This case is important because it is about the right of a candidate to speak out on issues that are important to the public ... like health care, like war and peace and jobs," said Kucinich's lawyer, Donald McTigue. "We don't think you can require this oath of silence as a qualification to be on the ballot."

Texas Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto said state chairman Boyd Richie must enforce the rules approved by the party's governing body.

"We will wait to hear what happens with the appeal," he said.

The Texas primary is March 4. The Texas Secretary of State's Office has said it needs the ballot question resolved soon because ballots going to out-of-state military members need to be printed and mailed by Saturday.

McTigue and attorney Joe Turner filed the notice of appeal with Yeakel and asked for a temporary injunction allowing Kucinich on the ballot pending a hearing of the case by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

The attorneys say they expect an expedited hearing by the appeals court. But a court can take all the way until the election to make a decision if it chooses, McTigue said.

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