COA dismisses appeal of woman kept off May 2022 GOP primary, citing mootness

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Dana Kenworthy

A would-be candidate in last year’s Republican primary cannot now appeal the challenge to her candidacy that ultimately kept her off the ballot.

The Court of Appeals of Indiana dismissed the case as moot, noting the appellant could have appealed before the May 2022 primary date.

Judge Dana Kenworthy penned the unanimous opinion in Amy Rainey v. Indiana Election Commission, Daniel Holtz, 22A-PL-1548, dismissing as moot Amy Rainey’s appeal, filed after the Marion Superior Court declined to grant her relief after she was kept of the May 2022 Republican primary ballot.

Rainey was seeking to run in the Republican primary for the Indiana House District 49 seat, which is now held by Republican Rep. Joanna King.

Before the May 2022 primary, Elkhart County Republican Party Chair Daniel Holtz challenged Rainey’s candidacy, alleging she was “not affiliated with the party in the way Indiana Code Section 3-8-2-7 requires.”

That statute requires a “statement of the candidate’s party affiliation,” with the candidate proving they are “affiliated” with the party by either proving that the most recent primary in which they voted was a primary held by the applicable political party, or with the county chairman of the party or the county in which the candidate resides certifying that the candidate is a member of the party.

Rainey seemed to address those requirements in a video posted to her campaign Facebook page on April 28, 2022, in which she said, “It’s clear that the major parties do not consider you to actually be a member of the major party if you are simply a voter. So you have to engage with the process, you have to vote in the primaries, even if there’s only one choice.

“A lot of us who are common-sense people would think, ‘Well I won’t go vote in the primary because there’s only one person on the ticket, so taking time off work to drive over there, to request a ballot, to vote for the only option on the ballot doesn’t make a lot of sense,’” Rainey said in the video. “But know that the decision not to take time off work and to drive over and vote for the candidate that you will be checking the box for will count against you if you ever want to get engaged with the party.”

Holtz’s challenge to Rainey’s candidacy went before the Indiana Election Commission, which upheld the challenge. Rainey responding by seeking judicial review.

Rainey also sought a preliminary injunction, given that she filed for judicial review in March and the primary was scheduled for May.

On March 31, the trial court denied preliminary relief.

“At that point, Rainey did not pursue an interlocutory appeal,” Kenworthy wrote Tuesday. “Put differently, she did not immediately seek an appellate decision about granting preliminary relief. Because of the status quo, Rainey did not appear on the primary ballot.”

The case continued post-primary, with Rainey arguing that the commission made a mistake in upholding Holtz’s challenge and deprived her of due process, and that I.C. 3-8-2-7(a)(4) violated the state and federal constitutions. The trial court ultimately denied Rainey relief.

Rainey then filed her instant appeal, which was dismissed as moot.

“Was Rainey required to pursue an interlocutory appeal? No,” Kenworthy wrote. “… May Rainey appeal now? Absolutely. … Yet by waiting for the election to pass, Rainey changed the nature of her case.

“That is, before the election, it was possible for Rainey to appear on the ballot,” Kenworthy continued. “But after the election, no court could turn back the clock. Therefore, regardless of the outcome — indeed, even if Rainey had prevailed — a judicial opinion would not change the legal relationship between Rainey and the defendants (Holtz and the Commission). There was no longer a concrete controversy between them.”

The appellate court then declined to issue an advisory opinion under the public-interest exception to mootness, noting the unique facts of Rainey’s case are not likely to recur.

“That said, the public would benefit from an advisory opinion in many kinds of cases,” Kenworthy wrote. “Even so, we must remain mindful of the judicial function, respecting constitutional boundaries calling for restraint.

“Finally, and even more to the point, we cannot ignore that Rainey could have appealed before the election,” the appellate court concluded. “Indeed, she had the chance for a timely and effective judicial opinion.”

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