Warren County GOP official: Rigid state rules caused two-man race
By Joe Beck -- email@example.com
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney cruised past U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, in most of the Northern Shenandoah Valley Tuesday.
Romney's win in the statewide presidential primary came as hard feelings lingered among some local Republican activists over the absence of the party's two other surviving candidates from the ballot.
With most of the votes counted, Romney had won 54 percent to 65 percent in Clarke, Frederick and Shenandoah counties and Winchester. Warren County bucked the statewide and regional trend by giving Paul almost 58 percent of the vote compared to 41 percent for Romney.
Turnout ranged from a high of more than 7 percent of all voters in Clarke County to roughly five percent in other jurisdictions.
Warren County Republican Committee Chairman David Henderson said Tuesday morning he was so upset that he intended to vote, but would write in "nobody" as his candidate.
"I think the Republican Party made a terrible mistake," he said. "I think having the rules so rigid that we wind up with only two candidates makes the primary useless for Virginia."
Sue Hughes, president of the Republican Women of Shendandoah County, said she wasn't sure whether the state party should change the rules by which presidential candidates qualify for the ballot. But she regretted that former House speaker Newt Gingrich and former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum were not among the choices.
"They should have made the ballot," Hughes said. "It's a shame we don't have a good lineup to choose from."
State Republican officials ruled in December that Gingrich and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, still a candidate at that time, failed to collect the 10,000 signatures from registered voters that is required of each candidate to earn a place on the ballot. Each candidate is also required to submit at least 400 signatures from each of the state's 11 congressional districts.
Santorum, struggling with low poll numbers before the Iowa caucuses, did not submit any signatures.
Del. Michael Webert, R-18th, said he would like to have seen all four remaining candidates on the ballot, but had little sympathy for those who didn't. Gathering signatures is part of the vettting process that demonstrates a candidate's diligence and seriousness about running, Webert said, adding that the 10,000 signatures required from a population of millions of Virginians "is actually quite small."
"The first I heard of Newt Gingrich signature petitions going aorund was two weeks before the deadline," Webert said. "Romney and Paul were out collecting signatures months before."
The bitter tone of the contest among the four survivors has also left a sour taste among party activists.
Dominic Repici, vice chairman of the Warren County Republican Committee, said he is confident that the divisiveness will pass after one of the candidates emerges as the clear choice for the nomination.
"I do believe once the nominee is chosen, the party will get behind them," Repici said.