Rockford-area man: Toss Cruz from primary, not ‘natural-born’ citizen

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Lawrence Joyce is petitioning to have Ted Cruz removed from the ballot for the Republican presidential nomination on the grounds that he’s not a natural-born U.S. citizen. | Andy Grimm/Sun-Times

A Rockford area man’s bid to have Sen. Ted Cruz knocked off the Illinois primary ballot won’t be decided until next month, but lawyers for the Republican presidential contender seemed confident a lawsuit alleging Cruz is not a “natural-born” U.S. citizen will be tossed.

Lawyers for Cruz and the state Election Board didn’t argue the merits of whether  Cruz was eligible for the nation’s highest office at a hearing Friday at the Daley Center on an election board complaint by Poplar Grove pharmacist and attorney Lawrence Joyce.

Joyce, who got his law degree in the mid-1980s so he could give legal help to conservative causes, maintains Cruz is not eligible to be president because Cruz was born in Canada, albeit to a mother who was an American citizen. But Joyce missed the deadline to take his case to court after the state Election Board tossed his complaint earlier this month, and he also failed to properly serve the state and Cruz with legal paperwork.

While election challenges typically are on a fast track through local courts, Joyce put the brakes on the case himself: Joyce told Judge Maureen Ward Kirby he wouldn’t be able to make the trip back to Chicago until March 1 because he can’t find someone to cover his midnight-shift duties at a hospital in Belvidere.

Talking to reporters outside Kirby’s courtroom, Joyce said he was undeterred. The case against Cruz, Joyce said, is simple.

“Ted Cruz is not a natural-born citizen of the United States. The Constitution says you have to be [a natural-born citizen] to be president of the United States,” Joyce said.

Cruz’s lawyer, Murphysboro state Senate candidate Sharee Langenstein, declined to comment on the case.

Richard Means, an attorney and Illinois election law expert, said Joyce’s case might have merit, but he assumes the case will likely be tossed by the judge yet again if Joyce didn’t make his appeal and properly serve Cruz and the state Election board before the deadline.

“He’s deader than a doornail if he didn’t jump through that one hoop [of meeting the deadline to file an appeal],” Means said. “Illinois makes it easier for people to file these kinds of cases than other states, but I don’t think this one survives.”

Cruz, who finished first in the GOP’s Iowa Caucus and third in the New Hampshire Primary, faces ballot challenges in several states though most legal experts agree the Texas senator is eligible to serve as president. As in other cases, Joyce says that Cruz does not qualify as a “natural-born” U.S. citizen because he was born in Canada, even though Cruz’s mother was American-born.

Joyce said he is backing Ben Carson, but Cruz would have been his second choice for the GOP nomination — if he believed Cruz were eligible for the presidency. If Cruz becomes the Republican candidate, his citizenship status would set up a “nightmare scenario,” as Democrats lodged lawsuits similar to his in states across the U.S. in the run-up to the November 2016 elections, Joyce insists.

“The Democrats will get to cherry-pick which county courthouses they show up in across the nation. They could wind up with a string or three or four or five victories in a row,” Joyce said. “Fundraising for Ted Cruz would plummet dramatically. His poll numbers would sink. He may be forced to resign the nomination.”

If Cruz were forced to step down, Joyce is concerned Republican power brokers might be able to install a candidate Joyce dislikes, such as New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie or former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Joyce said he has received no support from Carson or other candidates, and wasn’t sure why other campaigns haven’t filed suits of their own.

“I’m not sure why nobody else came forward with something like this,” Joyce said. “Before I got into this, I was told there was some horribly complicated issue of constitutional law. . . . I went looking for that complicated issue of constitutional law, and I didn’t find it. I found something that’s very simple and straightforward.”

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