RPV presidential petition process marred by controversy, tragedy
At a time when Virginia is expected to be considered one of the most important states in the 2012 presidential election, its first moment in the national spotlight was overshadowed by only two of the potential seven candidates gaining access to the ballot and a party volunteer losing her life in a car accident.
Two different GOP officials confirm that a woman, that was helping count and verify signatures submitted by presidential candidates, was involved in a serious car crash after leaving the signature canvassing session. She was killed in the accident.
Her identity was not immediatley available.
The fatal accident was the capper of a difficult and somewhat embarrassing night for the state republican party. Of the seven potential candidates for president, only four attempted to submit the necessary 10,000 signatures to get on the March 6th ballot. Of the four that decided to participate only two, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul, were certified as official candidates.
Texas Governor Rick Perry fell far short of being certified. A GOP activist said that despite telling the state Board of Elections that he submitted more than 11 thousand signatures, the Perry campaign handed in somewhere between 4-6 thousands qualified signatures.
Then early Saturday morning, The RPV determined that House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who had just spent two days drumming up support and cash for the state party, also did not qualify for the ballot. Gingrich was disqualified at 2:50am.
The credible conservative blog, Bearing Drift is reporting that one of the Gingrich’s petition gatherers was not qualified. According to BD, that accounted for as many as 2 thousand of the speaker’s signatures being tossed, but could open the door to a legal challenge.
Losing both Gingrich and Perry from the Virginia primary ballot is shocking, given that both have worked to develop strong ties to the Commonwealth. Gingrich is a Virginia resident and has spent quite a bit of time traveling the state over the past several years. Perry is close with Governor Bob McDonnell and headlined a very successful fundraiser for the party in September.
In the wake of this petition drama, pundits from both sides of the aisle are saying that this process has separated the true contenders from those just going through the motions.
Norm Leahy wrote this morning that the Virginia Republican petition process actually became the first actual presidential primary. “A hardened cynic might say this result exposes those campaigns for what they are: glorified book tours,” Wrote Leahy. He went on to say, “Getting on Virginia’s ballot was a test of organizational skill and grassroots strength. It was also something much more mundane: it tested whether campaigns could pay attention to a calendar and read instructions.”
Former Democratic Party of Virginia chairman Paul Goldman, who predicted Perry and Gingrich wouldn’t make it, said the failure of the major candidates indicates problems with their campaign infrastructure. “This is a failing of the national Perry and Gingrich campaigns who are supposed to helping locals get it done,” he said. However, Goldman believes the people are the ones who suffer. He believes the General Assembly should entertain the idea of changing the law to give these candidates a reprieve in time for the March primary.
Meanwhile Virginia Democrats certified President Barack Obama as their only candidate for the March primary.