RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Members of the North Carolina Green Party said Monday they felt “vindicated” after a federal judge ruled the state must allow the party’s candidates to be on the ballot in November. 

They held a rally outside the federal courthouse in Raleigh Monday, saying they were “wronged” when state election officials initially refused to certify the party earlier this summer amid a fraud investigation. 

“We have to spend months fighting with the government and against the Democratic Party in court. So, it’s exciting to now have that behind us and to move forward and to offer North Carolina voters another political option,” said Matthew Hoh, the party’s candidate for U.S. Senate. 

U.S. Judge James Dever ruled late Friday in favor of the Greens just days after the NC State Board of Elections changed its position and voted in favor of certifying the party. 

Democrats filed a separate lawsuit last week in state court as the party has worked to try to keep the Greens off the ballot. The Greens reported that Democratic Party operatives called and went to people’s homes trying to convince them to remove their names from petitions they’d signed in favor of the Green Party being included on the ballot.

CBS17/Michael Hyland

Green Party leaders said Monday they think there could be grounds for a lawsuit against Democrats but it’s unclear if they’ll actually pursue that. 

“You wade into the alligator pit, you’re gonna get bit,” said Hoh. “I understand why they are doing it. I mean, it’s disgraceful and undemocratic but I understand why because they feel threatened.” 

State election officials pointed out they had examples of “obvious fraud” in the petitions the Green Party submitted but ultimately determined the party had submitted enough valid signatures to be recognized. That fraud investigation continues. 

The decision comes amid what could be a close race in North Carolina for U.S. Senate between Democratic former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley and Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Budd. 

“If this race is extremely close, which it might be, then third parties can have an impact,” said David McLennan. “Several thousand votes could matter.”

Spokespeople for the North Carolina Democratic Party and Beasley’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment Monday. 

“I reject the term spoiler, but I embrace the term disrupter,” said Hoh.

In addition to Hoh, Green Party member Michael Trudeau is running in state Senate district 16 in this year’s election. The district is in Wake County.