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Judge upholds Green candidate's removal from attorney general race

September 11, 2000
By: Katy Scott
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Green Party candidate for Missouri's attorney general will not be allowed in the race because she does not have a law degree, a Cole County circuit judge has ruled.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Brown issued a ruling upholding the decision of the Secretary of State's office to disqualify Sister Mary Ann McGivern, a Roman Catholic nun, because she is not an attorney -- even though Missouri law does not specifically require the attorney general be a lawyer.

Brown also ordered that a Green candidate for state representative, who had also been disqualified, be put back on the ballot.

Jim Grebing, the secretary of state's spokesman, said the ruling will stand unless McGivern and the Green Party decide to appeal.

"As far as the attorney general issue, that's now in the hands of the Green Party," he said.

McGivern said she probably will not pursue the issue any further because she does not want to take resources, specifically money and media attention, away from the Green Party.

"It detracts from the Green's larger campaign," she said. "The Green Party itself provides a great hope for young and disenchanted voters and a real chance to make a difference."

But controversy still surrounds McGivern's disqualification. Some claim politics played a role in the decision of the Secretary of State's office.

"It certainly gives the appearance that there's partisanship here," said Henry Robertson, McGivern's attorney.

McGivern said because Secretary of State Rebecca Cook is a Democrat, her office may have been trying to eliminate candidates that would take votes away from her party.

"It's impossible for an elected official to act outside of the concerns of their party," McGivern said. "It's how politics is run in this country."

The Secretary of State's office, however, said such allegations are "absolutely ludicrous."

"It's the secretary of state's statutory responsibility to check the qualifications of candidates before they can be on the ballot. We did that with Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, all the candidates," Grebing said. "We're not singling out anybody. We're just doing our job."

McGivern said she ran for the office mainly in an attempt to bring capital punishment up for debate.

"The death penalty needs not to be blindly resisted by the attorney general, but explored," she said.

Judge Brown also ordered that Frank Eller Jr., a Green candidate for state representative in St. Louis County, be allowed on the ballot. The Secretary of State's office had disqualified Eller because, when filing for candidacy, he filled in "state representative" as the office he was seeking without specifying in which district he was running. In another form, however, Eller did say he was running in the 87th district.