- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2011

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has qualified for the April 3 primary in the District, making him the first of five GOP candidates expected to vie for 16 delegates in the overtly Democratic city while neighboring Virginia mulls campaign gaffes that left two key contenders off its swing-state ballot.

Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker from Georgia, is expected to turn in the petition he picked up from the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics on Dec. 5 by Wednesday’s deadline and Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to pay a heftier filing fee to bypass signature requirements, according to election and party officials. That means both will compete in the District after failing to collect the necessary 10,000 valid signatures to qualify for the March 6 primary in the Old Dominion.

“That only emphasizes the point now that they need to get on every ballot,” said Paul Craney, executive director of the D.C. Republican Committee.

Rep. Ron Paul of Texas and Jon Huntsman Jr., the former governor of Utah, round out the field of GOP candidates slated for the D.C. primary, leaving Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and a surging Rick Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, as key absences from the ballot.

A spokeswoman for the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics confirmed Thursday it has not heard from the Bachmann and Santorum campaigns.

“Candidates who are very serous about picking up the nomination are competing in all states and territories,” Mr. Craney said.

The city’s Republican primary is an exercise in securing the party nomination, and not a path to the presidency from a city that will undoubtedly award its three electoral votes to President Obama by a vast margin in November’s elections.

A Board of Elections and Ethics spokeswoman said Mr. Romney’s campaign filed its petition Dec. 14, locking the former Massachusetts governor in ahead of the quartet of other candidates who say they will meet the deadline.

The District’s primary is hardly a pivotal one, arriving about halfway between the Iowa caucuses Tuesday and final state primaries in June. Yet it is one of four winner-take-all elections around the country April 3. Primaries before that day are required to award delegates in proportion to their individual vote tallies.

D.C. presidential primaries tend to bounce around the calendar. In 2004, the District held a largely symbolic, first-in-the-nation primary in mid-January to highlight its lack of voting rights in Congress. Democrats picked former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, whose campaign at the time was surging.

It then held a caucus in mid-February anyway, joining the increasing ranks of Democrats opting for Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, who was one of several candidates who did not participate in the earlier primary.

This year, GOP candidates need 296 signatures to get on the city’s ballot - a figure that corresponds to 1 percent of the 29,585 registered Republicans in the District - and secure the city’s 16 delegates (19 when party leaders are included). By comparison, Maryland and Virginia will send 37 and 50 delegates, respectively, to the GOP convention in August.

“It’s still 16, which is more than several states,” Mr. Craney said.

Despite the low threshold to qualify as a Republican, the holidays and transient nature of voters in the District - some are still registered in their former state of residence - can make signature-gathering a chore, according to the DCGOP.

The D.C. Office of Campaign Finance also requires each candidate to name 16 potential delegates and 16 alternate delegates, who then are required to register with the Office of Campaign Finance.

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