With less than a month left to petition onto the gubernatorial ballot, third party candidates Jonathan Pelto and Joe Visconti both say they’re confident they will collect the requisite 7,500 signatures.
Pelto, a liberal blogger and former Democratic lawmaker, and Visconti, a conservative former West Hartford councilman, have both enlisted the help of volunteers to gather signatures.
Their efforts have potentially set up a four-way governor’s race in November. Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is seeking re-election while his 2010 rival, Tom Foley, has again won the Republican nod and is facing Senate Minority Leader John McKinney in a primary race on Aug. 12.
With Malloy and Foley virtually tied in the most recent Quinnipiac poll, the presence of third-party candidates on the ballot could have a significant impact on the election. Both third-party candidates say they are well on their way to collecting the necessary 7,500 signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.
However, the process of getting those signatures qualified is difficult.
Campaign volunteers must gather signatures and addresses from registered voters, and have their petition sheets notarized. After the volunteers turn the signatures over to the campaigns, the signatures have to be submitted to a registrar of voters in the town of the person who signed the petition. The registrars have two weeks to certify the signatures and the deadline to submit signatures is Aug. 6.
Here’s where each candidate said they stood Tuesday with the deadline less than a month away:
Pelto estimates about 400 people are currently collecting signatures for his campaign. All told, he believes those volunteers have surpassed the 7,500 mark necessary to qualify. However, only about half the volunteers have returned their signature sheets to the campaign. He estimated the campaign has about 5,000 signatures “in hand,” and more still require notarization. Meanwhile, volunteers continue to collect more signatures to establish a “buffer” in case some are disqualified by registrars.
“I’ve taken off the word ‘cautiously’ out of ‘cautiously optimistic.’ Now I’m just optimistic. I think we’re there,” he said.
Pelto said his campaign began delivering signatures to individual town registrars on Monday. He expects they will deliver another batch on Tuesday and another later in the week. Pelto said the signatures have come from voters in “well over” 100 different towns.
Although he is focused on ensuring that his name gets onto the ballot, Pelto said the complexity of the signature collection process has highlighted the challenges he would face if he tried to qualify for a public campaign financing grant.
“It’s a major undertaking and the one thing it does do is cast a shadow on the next phase, which is, do we participate in the public financing system?” Pelto said. In order to qualify for the program as a third-party candidate, he would have to collect signatures from about 111,000 voters.
“It’s becoming clearer and clearer that’s not possible,” he said.
So far, Malloy and Foley have qualified for the Citizens Election Program. McKinney is still working to get his application approved.
Pelto said he is a supporter of public campaign financing, but believes the state’s program sets too high a hurdle for third-party candidates to participate. He said he is considering filing a lawsuit to challenge the requirements.
“I’m leaning more and more toward the notion that the law is just too restrictive. We’ll explore our legal options that it may be an infringement on our First Amendment right to have to collect 111,000 signatures,” he said.
In the meantime, Pelto said he expects to begin fundraising the “old fashioned way.”
Visconti estimates he has about 125 people collecting signatures for his campaign. He estimated they had so far collected around 5,000. A staunch Second Amendment advocate, Visconti said many of his signatures have come from volunteers who have been fixtures at gun stores around the state, including Hoffman’s Gun Center in Newington.
Visconti had initially sought the Republican nomination to challenge Malloy, but did not win enough support from delegates at the party convention to appear on the August primary ballot. Following a short-lived effort to petition onto the GOP primary ballot, he began his third-party candidacy.
He said the signature collection process has been easier without the requirement that the signing voters be registered Republicans.
“We’ll definitely make it [to 7,500] and more, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel compared to looking for Republican signatures, which was like looking for four leafed clovers,” Visconti said.
Although his campaign has not yet begun submitting signatures to individual registrars, Visconti said he expects to begin that process next week but continue collecting signatures up until the August deadline. He said the campaign also plans to organize a “notarizing party” where volunteers can gather to notarize petitions.
Visconti declined to say how much money his campaign has raised, but said he has no desire to participate in the public campaign financing system.
“I’ll never do that. Wouldn’t do it even if I could,” he said.
Visconti said he looks forward to a four-way race. He said the added choices will drive up voter turnout in November.
“Malloy and Foley are the big ones. We’re just spoilers over here. Well, I think it’s going to turn out different,” he said.