FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — A Republican candidate who took the nickname “Trump” is vowing to fight to put it on Kentucky’s ballot after the state’s chief election official determined it was an “improper attempt” to gain an advantage in a state where the president remains popular.
Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes’ office said Friday that Carl Nett’s name will be certified to appear on the spring primary ballot without the Trump nickname.
Nett is among four Republicans running for secretary of state this year. Four Democrats are also seeking the office, but Grimes, a Democrat, cannot seek re-election because of term limits.
Grimes’ office said in a statement that it determined that Nett offered “this so-called nickname in an improper attempt to gain an advantage on the ballot.”
Nett lambasted the decision on social media, calling it “an attempt to pick winners & losers” in a Republican primary. In a phone interview earlier Friday, Nett said he was prepared to “exhaust any and all legal remedies” to have his nickname appear on the ballot.
Kentucky law allows candidates to have a nickname printed on the ballot, but only if they submit an affidavit under oath attesting it is their real nickname and they are not using it to “gain an advantage on the ballot.”
Republican Donald Trump won Kentucky by nearly 30 percentage points in 2016 on his way to the White House, winning all but two of the state’s 120 counties.
Nett’s affidavit, which was signed by several other people, says he was such an enthusiastic early supporter of Trump’s presidential campaign that “establishment Republicans” began calling him “Trump” derisively. Since then, Nett said he has embraced the nickname to the point that people who attend Republican events often yell “Trump!” when he enters the room.
Michael Adams, another Republican candidate for secretary of state, wrote to Grimes last month urging her to use her discretion under law to keep Nett’s Trump nickname off the ballot.
Reacting to Grimes’ decision Friday, Adams said: “Kentucky law prohibits use of a ‘spurious’ nickname ‘to gain an advantage on the ballot.’ No candidate running to be our chief election official should attempt a fraud upon the voters.”
Nett denounced it as an “11th hour ruling,” and said he was not given an opportunity to respond to the “unilateral decision to remove my legitimate, bona fide nickname from the ballot.”
On Monday, Grimes will certify candidates’ names for the printing of the primary election ballot. The state’s Republican and Democratic primaries are May 21.