Virginia just got a little more contested. The battleground state where Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney are deadlocked just got a little more interesting. The swing-state contest just had two more candidates added to the ballot: The conservative Constitution party nominee Virgil Goode and Libertarian party nominee Gary Johnson. However, the GOP sought to keep both off of the presidential ballot. They fear both of the candidates might result in Romney losing the highly contested state to Obama.
On Tuesday, Virginia’s Republican-dominated electoral board rejected the state Republican party’s effort to keep both candidates off the ballot.
Both candidates had a review of alleged irregularities in their qualifying petitions. However, the State Board of Elections voted to refer the GOP’s allegations against the Constitution party candidate Virgil Goode to the Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the state police for investigation. This did not take place for Libertarian Gary Johnson.
Goode, who has been a Democrat, an independent and most recently a Republican during his 36 year career which spanned twelve years in Congress and twenty-four in the Virgina Senate, said, “We’re on the ballot, so I”m happy.”
The Republican Party leveled the challenge against Goode as a Quinnipiac University poll showed Romney and President Barack Obama tied in Virginia. Goode, who was elected five times to Virginia’s 5th District seat representing rural Southside Virginia, could draw thousands of votes from a conservative base less than four years after leaving office.
The state GOP quietly lodged its 28 pages of claims in a letter to the State Board of Elections late Thursday, just ahead of the three-day Labor Day weekend. It was filed by Chris Nolen, a former deputy state attorney general now with McGuireWoods, one of Richmond’s most muscular law and lobbying firms.
The board hurriedly added the matter to its regular Tuesday meeting agenda and required the SBE’s staff to work through the holiday weekend to determine that both Goode and Johnson had easily exceeded the requirement for 10,000 registered voter signatures, including at least 400 from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts.
While the Obama campaign sees both men being on the ballot as taking votes from his opponent, the Romney campaign downplays and damage from either candidate. Fox News reports,
“People on the right side of the spectrum are so intent on beating this president that they will see a vote for a Gary Johnson or a Virgil Goode as nothing more than a vote to re-elect Barack Obama,” said Romney political director Rich Beeson.
Moreover, Beeson said, Obama might be vulnerable among disgruntled liberals who might be attracted to Johnson’s libertarian social views.
“I think he’s going to lose some on the left and at the end of the day you assume that that’s a wash and its back to being a one-to-one race,” Beeson said. “Right now it is an interesting story line, but as we get closer to the election I think these things tend to sort of fall away and you have the bulk of the electorate focused on the two primary party candidates.”
With all of the political maneuvering and the legal wrangling taking place, it is still possible with the investigation by Virginia’s AG and the state police that Goode could be disqualified form the ballot if the criminal investigation results in election fraud charges.
The Virginia Constitution Party Chairman Mitch Turner said that the effort by the GOP was to intimidate conservative third-party rivals and limit their access to the ballot.
“I think that sends a message to the people that if you are going to buck the establishment, if you want to get out there and make a difference, you better watch out,” he said.