- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 5, 2012

RICHMOND — Three Republican presidential contenders — including Rick Santorum, fresh off a strong performance in Iowa — intervened in a lawsuit Wednesday in a eleventh-hour effort to get their names on Virginia’s March 6 presidential primary ballot.

Mr. Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman Jr. filed a joint motion to intervene in fellow candidate Rick Perry’s lawsuit, a motion granted by U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr.

Mr. Perry, the Texas governor, filed the suit last week. He took a break Wednesday from his campaign after a fifth-place finish in Iowa, but he insists that he will stay in the race.

Candidates must gather a minimum 10,000 signatures, with at least 400 from each of Virginia’s 11 congressional districts, to qualify for the ballot.

The suit challenges Virginia rules that signature-gatherers must be eligible or qualified voters in the state. It also asks to have Mr. Perry’s name placed on the ballot.

The state Board of Elections set the order of the ballot Dec. 28.

Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Republican, will be listed first and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who eked out an eight-vote win over Mr. Santorum in Iowa, will be listed second. They were the only GOP contenders to qualify for the Virginia ballot.

The intervenors’ complaint filed Wednesday says that Mr. Huntsman, a former Utah governor, did not sign a declaration of candidacy because of the signature petition requirement and that Mr. Santorum collected more than 8,000 petition signatures. The former Pennsylvania senator tried to submit the signatures Dec. 22, but the board refused to accept them because they didn’t meet the required number of 10,000, the suit states.

Mr. Gingrich says he submitted more than 10,000 signatures, but not enough were found to be valid. At a stop in Iowa last week, he accused a worker hired by the campaign of committing fraud in gathering about 1,500 signatures.

The complaint, which did not include Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who dropped out of the race Wednesday after finishing sixth in Iowa, calls for the three candidates to be placed on the ballot, an injunction to prevent the petition-gatherer requirement from being enforced and attorneys’ fees.

The Virginia primary situation had prompted calls for emergency state legislation that would open up the ballot to more candidates than just Mr. Paul and Mr. Romney.

Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II indicated Saturday that he would push the legislature to adopt a law stating that if candidates qualify for federal matching funds, they will automatically be placed on the ballot.

By Sunday, however, Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, pulled back from that position, saying he would support changing the rules only for future elections.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a political and personal friend of Mr. Perry‘s, said Wednesday that Mr. Perry did not call him either about the results from Iowa or the pending lawsuit.

There is certainly room for debate regarding a change to the ballot rules for future elections, he said, acknowledging that Virginia is among the strictest in the country.

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