It seems strange that a Democrat would get to decide which Republicans are placed on the ballot, but Connecticut statutes give the secretary of the state the power to do just that.
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, a Democrat, will get to decide which candidates end up on the presidential primary ballot, Av Harris, Merrill’s spokesman, said Friday.
The decision is made by monitoring state and national news coverage of the primary, Harris said. Candidates who are “generally and seriously advocated and recognized” by the media are added to the ballot. Those who don’t receive coverage won’t appear on the list that Merrill is scheduled to release on Feb. 10.
Harris said the process is fairly simple.
“The universe of candidates are well known for president. We’ve been gathering information and monitoring press coverage for more than a year,” he said.
Should a candidate who isn’t picked by the secretary of the state want to be included in the primary, Harris said there is a petition process to be added.
After the list is released in February, candidates who didn’t make the cut have until March 2 to file a petition with 7,500 names with registrars of voters, he said. They could also file a petition with enough names to make up 2 percent of the enrolled Republican party members, he said.
Though unusual, Harris said in practice the method of choosing candidates doesn’t tend to exclude candidates. He pointed to Republican candidate Newt Gingrich’s lawsuit in Virginia where Gingrich failed to collect the necessary 10,000 signatures in that state to gain access to the ballot. By comparison, it’s actually easier to get on the ballot in Connecticut, he said.
“Our trend is to be more inclusive than exclusive,” he said.
Though not quite as inclusive as New Hampshire, where all you have to do is “pay the secretary of state $1,000 and you’re on the ballot. We’re not that permissive,” he said.
However, Connecticut Republicans are unlikely to see-little known candidates like Fred Karger or Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer on their ballots.
Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Jerry Labriola said he is fine with that.
“I really don’t see the purpose of fringe candidates or someone looking to gain publicity. I don’t see how that helps the process,” he said.
Labriola said he didn’t envision any controversy over Merrill’s selection of Republican candidates.
“I would assume she would default to the candidates who are still actively contesting the nomination,” he said.
It probably would not make sense to include Herman Cain on that list, he said. Cain has not officially withdrawn from the race, he has suspended his campaign.
Harris said Cain is an interesting case because he has gotten wide news coverage but seems unlikely to start actively campaigning again.
“I don’t think you could really argue that Herman Cain is still recognized as running for president,” he said.
Harris wouldn’t speculate on whether Merrill would decide to include the candidate, but said it will likely depend on what action, if any, he takes between now and Feb. 10.
On March 20 Merrill will hold a ceremony announcing the order the candidates will appear on the ballot. The Connecticut presidential primary will take place on April 24.