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The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College Since 1873

The Bates Student

House Defeats Impeachment Attempt Against Secretary of State

Lena LaPierre
Maine lawmakers gather in Augusta to debate impeachment efforts against Secretary of State Bellows.

The sleepy world of Maine politics seldom makes national headlines. Over the holiday break, however, events in Augusta became the unlikely center of a contentious, unfolding national debate on democratic norms, election eligibility and the meaning of insurrection.

Using the Fourteenth Amendment, Maine’s Shenna Bellows made history by becoming the first secretary of state to employ this Reconstruction-era measure to disqualify a major presidential candidate. As a result of her decision, Maine became the second state to bar Donald Trump from its primary ballot. Since making her decision to remove Trump from Maine’s ballot, Bellows has faced fierce backlash and threats — anger that sparked a Republican-backed effort to begin impeachment investigations against her. 

On Jan. 9, the Maine House of Representatives rejected the initiative by an 80-60 party-line vote. All four of Lewiston’s representatives voted against the order, which would have created a House Special Investigative Committee to investigate Bellows and “submit… recommendations… as to whether cause exists for impeachment.” 

Bellows’ critics argued that her disqualification of Trump amounted to anti-democratic “malfeasance.” During his speech on the House floor, for example, Representative James Thorne (R) denounced Bellows’ actions as a form of “voter suppression” that would result in the disenfranchisement of a significant swath of Maine’s electorate.

Republicans also charged Bellows with bias, claiming that she had a conflict of interest that prevented her from acting in good faith on this highly partisan issue. Because Bellows had served as an elector for President Joe Biden in the Electoral College, Representative Michael Soboleski (R) expressed his belief that she could not make an impartial ruling on Trump’s eligibility. “Secretary Bellows should have done the ethical thing and… recused herself,” he said during the House debate.

Defending Bellows, Representative Laura Supica (D) disagreed with Soboleski’s characterization of the secretary and argued that Bellows is a model civil servant, who upholds democracy through bipartisanship, transparency and hard work. “Throughout her time in office, she has gone above and beyond to carry out her duties with integrity and professionalism, often working across the aisle to ensure our democracy is strong. She has a proven record as a public servant, who stands up for free and fair elections,” she stated.

Other Republican lawmakers took issue with Bellows’ ruling because they believe Trump did not incite insurrection and, therefore, is not subject to the Fourteenth Amendment’s disqualification clause. During her speech, Representative Katrina Smith (R) criticized Bellows’ move to bar the former President because “there has been no crime… no impeachment… no conviction [of Trump] in a court of law.”

In an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) on January 2, however, Bellows herself addressed criticism that she cannot disqualify Trump until he is charged with insurrection. “I encourage people to read my decision, and also read very carefully Section Three of the Fourteenth Amendment… It doesn’t say ‘convicted’ or ‘impeached,’” she said. 

Another major attack levied by Republican House members against Bellows was that she had overstepped her powers as Maine’s secretary of state and violated established legal procedures and safeguards. In an emotionally charged speech, Representative Edward Polewarczyk (R) said, “What has become of the sovereign state of Maine? Are we no longer required to follow the rule of law?… Innocent until proven guilty has become guilty when accused. Due process is no longer allowed.”

Democrats such as Representative Adam Lee, however, insisted that Bellows had not violated the rule of law. Instead, he argued that Bellows was required by Maine law to issue a ruling on Trump’s eligibility after receiving challenges against his candidacy from Maine voters. In Lee’s speech, he criticized the Republicans’ order for “seek[ing] to impeach the secretary of state for doing a job that our statutes say she — and only she — is required to do. This resolution is before us not because she did anything wrong, but because some of us don’t like her decision… If one is upset that the secretary of state did all of these things [then] your quarrel is not with her. It is with the state legislature in 1985 [and the laws they passed].”

Bellows also defended her ruling from attacks that it violated established legal norms. During her interview with NPR, she said, “In my decision, I made clear this is part of Maine’s process. It now goes to Maine’s Superior Court. Mr. Trump may, and will, appeal to the Superior Court… And I voluntarily suspended the effect of my decision pending that court process, because we are a nation governed by the Constitution and rule of law. And that is extraordinarily important.” 

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About the Contributor
Lena LaPierre, Assistant Forum Editor
Lena is a sophomore from Hattiesburg, MS, majoring in History with a minor in Russian. When she is not busy writing essays or memorizing Russian grammar rules, Lena can be found reading, volunteering with College Guild and exploring Maine with her friends. Previously, Lena was a contributing writer for The Bates Student.

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  • J

    JasonJan 19, 2024 at 10:49 PM

    She is judgemental. I moved here from Pennsylvania, what a big mistake. Maine in 20 years behind on education, health,mental health, technology and the biggest law enforcement, homelessness. So these people running maine that let’s immigrants in. Well look at the census for crime and ethnic groups for the most crime. In maine its Asians right now. So they can’t fix this. But she can tell you who can can vote for to run every state. She is a total joke. Maine is only gonna get worse. And I’m definitely moving. What a big mistake. My advice for all other states. Visit maine for a week. That’s all I got to say about her forever.

  • W

    WilliaJan 16, 2024 at 12:22 PM

    She has not met the fundamental item to justify withholding Trump from the being on Maine’s ballot. She never provided any court case or legal proceedings where Trump was prosecuted for participating in insurrection. She clearly states she
    Follows the rule of law. With that said, I would love to hear her tell what legal citations involving Trump and this issue where he has been found guilty of insurrection.
    I would love to read it. She obviously knows something the rest of us don’t. Her colleagues say she is a model civil servant quote, so I do not think it would be a problem for the model civil servant to show the public the case citation against Trump . Otherwise, she may be showing bias, because our system is innocent until proven guilty. I haven’t seen any guilty on Trump. Can the model civil servant help the rest of us and clearly show us the legal court proceedings showing Trump was found guilty of insurrection? I am sure the public and myself would love to read it.