With all the hoopla surrounding the Virginia ballot, I wondered how the candidates fared in my home state. Tennessee works a little differently than other states. In fact, it seems that every state has a little tweak, a little nuance that makes it a little different from the others. That’s why the process is a great peek into how a candidate can handle complicated issues that require organization and hard work.
Tennessee will have fifty-eight delegates to the Tampa Republican National Convention. Each of our nine congressional districts will have three delegates. That means that Presidential candidates must find delegates who are leaders in their community willing to walk around with a clipboard asking friends and strangers to sign their names and their addresses on behalf of their candidacy for their preferred Presidential candidate. Each delegate had to get one hundred valid signatures of registered voters. So there’s several ways this could go wrong – illegible signatures, addresses that don’t match the person’s voter registration address (perhaps because they’ve moved), signers who claimed to be registered to vote but weren’t, or signers who thought they lived in a certain congressional district but didn’t.
My husband and I did this process in the 4th Congressional district of Tennessee on behalf of Gov. Romney, and the process wasn’t easy. We literally took our little clipboards with us while taking the kids trick-or-treating, to our church parking lot, to the drop-off line at Zion Christian Academy, and football games! It’s not an elegant process, rather it demands putting your feet on the pavement and your heart on your sleeve. Since almost no one in this day and age will sign a form without really understanding it, we had to explain why Mitt Romney should be the next President to my friends and neighbors, sometimes in the freezing cold. During this contentious campaign season, this also meant our heated conversations usually made us forget the cold weather.
In addition to the congressional delegates, fourteen “at large” delegates will be elected. These delegates had a slightly easier job, because they weren’t restricted to a certain district and could signatures from any registered voter in our state.
A full slate of delegate candidates would be forty-one.
So which candidates were able to supply a full slate for Tennessee? Only one:
Michelle Bachmann: 0
Gary Johnson: 0
Rick Santorum: 0
Ron Paul: 35
Newt Gingrich: 34
Rick Perry: 27
Mitt Romney: 48
But Gingrich and Perry fans mustn’t worry: Tennessee is not as restrictive as Virginia. Candidates without a full slate can still win them at the polls and have delegates appointed later by the state Republican Executive Committee under party rules.
However, it’s worth noting that the Yankee governor received forty-eight delegates in our southern state, pulling off what no other candidate could. What does this say about the conventional wisdom that southerners won’t warm to him?
Perhaps the Knoxville News Sentinel reported it best with this lead sentence:
Four of the nine Republican candidates in Tennessee’s presidential primary ballot will have no committed delegates on the ballot with them on the March 6 ballot, while Mitt Romney has a surplus wanting to represent him at the Republican National Convention.
Gingrich, Bachman, Santorum, Perry Give Romney a Christmas Gift: Failed to Qualify for Virginia Ballot!
During the last Presidential campaign, I was in charge of the entire state of Tennessee’s Romney delegation — overseeing our nine Congressional districts that encompass ninety-five counties. (Read about me going into a bar with my petition here during hte last cycle, when a fight over the war broke out!) Every state has different legal requirements, which makes it an organizational feat to get on the ballot in every state. This year, after having adopted a sweet baby girl from Africa, I wasn’t able to take an organizational role in the process. However, I was asked to represent him in the fourth Congressional district, along with my husband again. And so, for months, I went around Tennessee with some pens, a smile, and a clipboard with Gov. Romney’s name at the top, trying to make sure his name could legally appear on the ballot in the great state of Tennessee.
I assumed there were other poor delegates out there doing the same thing for their guy… nervously clearing their throat, hesitating to bring it up to their friends, sticking their ballots in their purses in case an appropriate moment in conversation presented itself. I told myself if I met someone trying to collect signatures with Rick Perry’s name on it, or Newt’s, or Paul’s, that I’d sign their petitions. After all, we need to be able to select from a wide range of options, right?
Imagine my surprise when I woke up to find out this:
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has failed to qualify for Virginia’s March 6 Republican primary, a development that complicates his bid to win the GOP presidential nomination. “After verification, RPV has determined that Newt Gingrich did not submit required 10k signatures and has not qualified for the VA primary,” the Republican Party of Virginia announced early Saturday on its Twitter website. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also fell short of the 10,000 signatures of registered voters required for a candidate’s name to be on the primary ballot, but former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul will be on the ballot. . .
(via FoxNews, via NRO)
I honestly can’t believe they neglected to cross their t’s and dot their i’s. And we’re expected to believe they’re competent enough for the White House?
Gingrich’s new campaign motto: I Can’t Run a Campaign, Just My Mouth.
So, this means that there are only two options for Virginia Republicans: Ron Paul or Mitt Romney. Newt and Perry couldn’t gather the required 10,000 signatures, and Rick Santorum and Michelle Bachmann may not have even submitted a petition in the first place.
Guys, this is a clarifying moment. And not just for Virginians.
Cameron Todd Willingham lived with his wife and three daughters in a Texas working-class neighborhood until disaster struck.
When a fire broke out one morning, his oldest daughter awakened her father by yelling for help. “Daddy! Daddy!” The fire ravaged their small home so quickly that the firefighters weren’t able to save the children. All three daughters died from smoke inhalation.
“My little girl was trying to wake me up and tell me about the fire,” he said. “I couldn’t get my babies out.”
The whole community mourned with the family and even took up a collection to help pay for the funerals. That is, until fire investigators claimed that Cameron himself had set the home ablaze to murder his own children. He was arrested, charged, and given the opportunity to plead guilty to spare his own life. He refused and was sentenced to death. Like many death row inmates, he steadfastly maintained his innocence until the day he died.
So far, the story sounds unremarkable. A sad but typical story of death and lies.
In 2009, the New Yorker changed the conversation. In a long, well-reported article about Willingham’s case and his appeals to the courts, writer David Grann suggested the evidence used to convict Willingham was easily refuted and new evidence may very well have established his innocence. He described the Texas Court of Appeals as “upholding convictions even when overwhelming exculpatory evidence came to light.”
For example, a presiding judge on the court was later charged with judicial misconduct for “refusing to keep open past five o’clock a clerk’s office in order to allow a last-minute petition from a man who was executed later that night.” Gov. George Bush pardoned people he believed were incarcerated wrongfully, even after the Court of Appeals upheld their convictions.
In other words, the court didn’t seem predisposed to give Willingham a fair hearing.
Despite the long odds, Dr. Gerald Hurst, an Austin scientist and fire investigator, reviewed Willingham’s case pro bono and concluded “no evidence of arson.” Other fire investigators reached the same conclusion. Grann writes:
Without having visited the fire scene, Hurst says, it was impossible to pinpoint the cause of the blaze. But, based on the evidence, he had little doubt that it was an accidental fire—one caused most likely by the space heater or faulty electrical wiring. It explained why there had never been a motive for the crime. Hurst concluded that there was no evidence of arson, and that a man who had already lost his three children and spent twelve years in jail was about to be executed based on “junk science.” Hurst wrote his report in such a rush that he didn’t pause to fix the typos.
His report was rushed to the Court. However, four days before Willingham’s scheduled execution, his attorney told Willingham that the Texas Court of Appeals and Gov. Perry did not delay the execution. The process was cloaked in secrecy, and no explanation was given. Resigned to his fate, Willingham told his parents, “Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.” He refused to walk into his execution room, was carried into the room, and killed by lethal injection.
The entire sad story, located here, is worth a read.
Let it be said that Willingham should be no one’s hero or poster boy. Before he died, he uttered expletives to his former wife and tried to give her a rude gesture, but his hands were bound. Plus, he admitted that he hit his wife, even when she was pregnant. A man who helped prosecute the case paints a picture of a terribly flawed man. One he claims could not have been innocent.
Yet, the question remains. Did he set that fire?
In 2009, Steve Mills of the Chicago Tribune investigated the case and believed that the fire was accidental, after all. He concluded: “Over the past five years, the Willingham case has been reviewed by nine of the nation’s top fire scientists—first for the Tribune, then for the Innocence Project, and now for the commission. All concluded that the original investigators relied on outdated theories and folklore to justify the determination of arson. The only other evidence of significance against Willingham was twice recanted testimony by another inmate who testified that Willingham had confessed to him. Jailhouse snitches are viewed with skepticism in the justice system, so much so that some jurisdictions have restrictions against their use.”
But Willingham’s is more than a tragic story of justice denied. Rather, it’s a ghost that could haunt Gov. Perry’s Presidential aspirations, especially as voters understand the extent of his role in what very well could be the first execution of an innocent man in modern American history.
First, he denied the stay of execution. Gov. Perry’s denial of Willingham’s petitions can be understood – and forgiven – if he had carefully reviewed the post-execution evidence relating to the mistakes that had undoubtedly been made in the case. However, in response to allegations that an innocent man had been killed, Gov. Perry responded, “He was a wife beater.” A Perry spokesperson said the Governor was aware of a “claim of a reinterpretation of (the) arson testimony,” but Perry maligned the investigators by calling them “latter-day supposed experts.” He also suggested they were aligned with death penalty opponents. Mills, however, disputes this claim by pointing out that “the nine scientists and investigators involved, all of whom have found the original investigation flawed, have worked for both defense lawyers and prosecutors, as well as for attorneys in civil litigation. All are considered among the field’s leaders. Some are viewed as prosecution-oriented.”
Second, he pressured the commission investigating the Willingham case to cease its investigation. In 2005, the Texas state legislature created the Texas Forensic Science Commission to review forensic complaints, and the Willingham case was among the panel’s first. Samuel Bassett, an attorney from Austin, was the chair of the Commission at the time and claims that Gov. Perry’s top legal advisors were unhappy with the course of their investigation. Not only did they call the investigation a “waste of money” they also pressured the commission to drop the matter entirely.
Third, Gov. Perry replaced three members of the commission immediately before damning testimony was heard. In spite of the Governor’s wishes, Bassett’s commission hired Craig Beyler of Hughes Associates to analyze the Willingham case. His report contained scathing criticism of the fire investigation, and was further corroboration of the initial investigation glaring problems. According to the L.A. Times, Beyler was scheduled to discuss the case in Dallas. However, a mere three days before his scheduled appearance, Gov. Perry replaced Bassett and two other commission members with new hand-selected replacements. John Bradley, the newly appointed chairman, immediately canceled the meeting with Beyler.
Most Republicans believe the death penalty is a terrible but necessary deterrent to crime, representing the ultimate justice that can be meted out on earth. Pro-life advocates ought to be especially eager to make sure the death penalty occurs only when it is abundantly justified. Because when the very processes meant to safeguard the innocent are carelessly or indifferently administered, it’s an inexcusable affront to the very life we esteem.
Rick Perry survived this controversy in Texas, and was re-elected in spite of the furor surrounding his decision.
Whether America will be as forgiving is a different question altogether.
Dear Romney supporters, I know it’s not fun to tune into the straw poll results and to see your candidate so far down the list. But here’s a little perspective. Gov. Romney won this straw poll last year, but that didn’t pave the way for him to the nomination. In fact, John McCain — the eventual GOP nominee – got less than 1% of the votes in the 2007 Ames Straw Poll. This year, Gov. Romney decided not to sink resources into this contest, which is a simply a fundraising racket for the Iowa state Republican party. Ramesh Ponnuru has an interesting analysis of today’s straw poll results:
Michele Bachmann won the greatest victory of her political career the same day much of the rationale for her candidacy evaporated. The Minnesota congresswoman came in first in the Iowa Republican straw poll, effectively removing former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty from contention in the presidential race. But Texas governor Rick Perry entered the race today, too, and he may do to her what she just did to Pawlenty.
Bachmann appeals to Republican voters who are searching for an articulate and uncompromising conservatism, and to an overlapping set of voters who prefer their leaders to be evangelical Protestants. They can find those traits in Perry, too—but Perry also has executive experience and a record of accomplishment that Bachmann lacks.
None of this means that Bachmann cannot continue to gain followers. She may even win the Iowa caucuses. But Perry and Mitt Romney will now dominate the race for the Republican nomination: One of those two men is highly likely to be the Republican nominee.
Read the rest here. And don’t be discouraged. We suffered through 2008, but 2012 will be our year!