Politics

Trump Election Guru John Eastman Trying to Take Down Colorado Primary System

Professor John Eastman, circled, being touted by Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani at a rally prior to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Professor John Eastman, circled, being touted by Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani at a rally prior to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. CBS Los Angeles via YouTube
John Eastman, a former University of Colorado Boulder guest professor who's currently fighting a subpoena from the congressional committee investigating the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, clearly believes the best defense is a good offense. He's a key figure in a lawsuit targeting the Colorado primary, which allows unaffiliated residents to participate in the vote for major party nominations.

Oh, yeah: One of the main reasons cited for the complaint is to protect the seat of 3rd Congressional District  Representative Lauren Boebert, who is currently making headlines for her outburst at the State of the Union address on March 1.

Eastman is widely considered to have masterminded the legal strategy for the failed effort to overturn the November 2020 election in which Joe Biden defeated incumbent Donald Trump, and was a featured speaker at the White House rally just before the insurrection bid. He was subsequently dumped as a guest professor by CU Boulder — an action for which he's threatened to sue — and is currently the subject of an ethics investigation by the State Bar of California. He previously served as a dean at Chapman University's Fowler School of Law in Cali's conservative stronghold, Orange County, but those ties were cut in January.

Rather than lying low as controversy swirls around him, Eastman has now joined Colorado-based attorney and KNUS talk-show host Randy Corporon, another notable election denier, to sue Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold over the primary system on behalf of PARABLE, a conservative advocacy group whose name translates to "People for Association Rights and Bi-Partisan Limited Elections."

PARABLE's chairman, Chuck Bonniwell (who refers to himself as "Charles" in the group's latest press release), is a firebrand in his own right, the publisher of the Glendale Cherry Creek Chronicle who was bounced from his own gig at KNUS in late 2019 after making a dubious joke about school shootings. And other plaintiffs in the suit, filed on February 24, comprise a veritable who's who of notables on the Colorado Republican Party's farthest-right fringe. Among them are U.S. Senate candidate Ron Hanks, U.S. House hopeful Laurel Imer and Casper Stockham, a failed congressional candidate in 2020 who says he'd consider running this year if the primary rules were changed.

PARABLE's summary of the case: "This is a suit challenging the legality, both on its face and as applied, of Colorado’s Proposition 108, a ballot initiative adopted in 2016 that requires a major political party to allow voters not affiliated with the party to vote in that party’s primary election and thereby to help determine the party’s nominee for the general election. Proposition 108 harms Plaintiffs by infringing upon their rights of free speech and association secured by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution (as incorporated and made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment) and their rights to equal protection of the laws secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States
Constitution."

As the suit makes clear, an overriding concern is the prospect of non-party members determining primary outcomes. "As of February 1, 2020, there are 954,102 registered active Republican voters, 1,070,804 registered active Democrat voters, and 1,637,864 active unaffiliated voters in Colorado," PARABLE notes, "giving rise to the very real possibility that unaffiliated voters voting in the Republican or Democrat primary elections would hand the nomination to someone who did not receive a majority or even plurality of votes from Republican or Democrat Party members, thereby placing the Party’s imprimatur on a candidate without majority or even plurality support from the Party’s members."

This idea particularly alarms Republicans. "Last Fall," the PARABLE announcement points out, "the Colorado Republican Party Central Committee passed a resolution urging the party or its members to undertake this litigation with an almost unanimous vote of its over 500 members."

Back in 2000, Eastman was involved in a successful challenge to the California primaries, which had taken a similar approach to the one Colorado adopted six years ago. "I’m honored to be representing PARABLE and the candidates and voters who are standing up to Colorado’s unconstitutional primary law," he says in the PARABLE statement.

"Republicans in Colorado have refused to stand up for themselves and their Party for far too long." he continues. "Exhibit 1 in the lawsuit is a Democrat call to use Colorado’s unconstitutional Primary law to take out Congresswoman Lauren Boebert in the primary election. This litigation aims to end this dilution of party values."

Bonniwell underscores Eastman's point.  "If we don’t want one-party rule in Colorado," he says, "we must protect the right of a party to pick its own candidates so Coloradans have a choice, not just a dominant uni-party with the rest little more than an echo."

Click to read Parable, et al., v. Jena Griswold. Find additional documents, including the Boebert-related exhibit, at this page on MyColoradoGOP.org.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts