The Secretary of State’s office rejected Seth Carey’s bid to become district attorney for Androscoggin, Oxford and Franklin counties because his law license is suspended and he’s not a registered Republican so he can’t be on the June 14 primary ballot.

Seth Carey at Lewiston City Hall this week. Steve Collins/ Sun Journal

Julie Flynn, deputy secretary of state, told Carey in a letter late Tuesday that he could not run in the Republican primary for the position because he wasn’t a registered Republican.

The town clerk in Rumford, Beth Bellegarde, said Wednesday that Carey switched his registration from Republican to unenrolled on Feb. 23, just three weeks before the deadline for him to file paperwork to run in the GOP primary.

In addition to his party enrollment problem, Flynn said, state law requires that a contender for district attorney be “a member in good standing of the bar of the State.” Carey’s law license was suspended in 2018 and has not been reinstated.

Though Carey said he anticipates he will be allowed to practice law soon, Flynn wrote that “a prediction about your future status with the State bar does not satisfy statutory requirements.”

Carey is pursuing a case against the Secretary of State’s office to try to convince a judge to agree with him that he should be allowed to pursue the full-time job overseeing more than a dozen prosecutors.

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He petitioned the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar for reinstatement of his license to practice law, and a three-day hearing on that petition has been scheduled to begin next Tuesday, March 22.

He hopes to force a June 14 primary against the only other candidate, Republican Neil McLean Jr., 53, of Turner, who works as an assistant district attorney in that office.

No Democrat filed paperwork to seek the position that has been held for two terms by Democrat Andrew Robinson of Farmington.

Carey also filed a challenge to the petitions filed by McLean, who had to gather more than 150 signatures from registered Republicans to earn his spot on the ballot.

Carey said McLean would put his nomination petitions on tables at Republican events and then walk off to have “lengthy conversations with a multitude of people.”

He couldn’t have witnessed people signing the petitions, Carey said in a letter to Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, even though he swore under oath that he had.

Carey called it “a serious breach of Maine law regarding false swearing of multiple documents with many violations for each signature that Mr. McLean swore to witnessing but did not in fact witness.”

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Carey said throwing out the signatures not actually witnessed would leave McLean short of the required 150 needed to earn a place on the June 14 primary ballot.

The secretary of state’s office is required by law to set a public hearing on the complaint. Carey will have to prove his allegations at that hearing, which has not yet been set.

McLean said late Tuesday that he hadn’t seen the claim or heard anything about it yet.

When Carey filed his paperwork for district attorney he revised the text of the preprinted form to indicate he was not enrolled in the GOP and that under his interpretation of Maine law he can run for district attorney if he will be eligible by Election Day. He said the secretary of state’s office misinterpreted the law.

Carey’s party registration is unclear. Both Rumford and the state said he is not listed as a Republican.

Carey said Tuesday that he might run as an independent if he can’t secure a spot on the GOP primary ballot.

Carey ran for district attorney in 2018, winning the Republican primary unexpectedly despite the suspension of his law license and garnering 42% of the vote against Robinson in the November general election. He is facing criminal charges, including two felonies, for an alleged sexual assault in 2018.

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