Libertarian Johnson didn't want to skip visit

8:22 AM, Aug 16, 2012   |    comments
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By Brian Wilson, The Tennessean

A presidential candidate was in Tennessee Wednesday but wasn't campaigning or fundraising for his White House campaign.

Instead, Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson came to Nashville to ensure he made the state's ballot as an independent presidential candidate in November, including meeting one requirement that candidates sign every nominating petition his campaign submitted.

Later in the day, his campaign was also getting additional petitioners to nominate him after more than half of the people who tried to nominate the former New Mexico governor were considered invalid by state election officials.

Jim Tomasik, the state director for Johnson's campaign, said he picked up Johnson himself from the airport Wednesday morning so he could meet an obscure part of state code and sign each petition to qualify for the November election. The afternoon before, he was told the petitions the campaign had filed were 74 signatures short of qualifying.

According to state election rules, independent Presidential candidates must have 275 signatures from registered Tennessee voters to be named on the ballot. More than half of the 415 signatures the Johnson campaign turned in earlier this month were apparently not from eligible voters.

"Over 50 percent to be rejected, that's an awfully high margin," Tomasik said. He quickly said it was the campaign's responsibility to step up and get Johnson, a fiscal conservative and social liberal, on the state's ballot.

Matthew Novak, the vice chairman of the Tennessee Libertarian Party, was helping the Johnson campaign get signatures in a last-minute push to qualify. After suing the state to try to have the Libertarian Party recognized as a legitimate party, he had some doubts the state followed past precedent in certifying candidates.

"We do believe they've been a little more thorough than they have been," Novak said. "It's kind of weird."

Weird or not, Tomasik, Novak and others from the Johnson campaign and state Libertarian Party were around Middle Tennessee Wednesday getting the 74 extra signatures. Tomasik said it was the least they could do after Johnson came to Tennessee on such short notice.

"Gary Johnson dropped what he was doing and came down here to get this taken care of," Tomasik said. "Now we have to step up and get our end taken care of."

By Wednesday afternoon, Tomasik said his group already had hundreds of signatures, but was taking no chances that they wouldn't have enough eligible signatures to get on the ballot.

"There isn't going to be any issue at all," he said. "We want to blow this out of the water."

According to state elections spokesman Blake Fontenay, four candidates submitted petitions to become an independent candidate for president in Tennessee by Wednesday afternoon. None have qualified.

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