Ted Cruz may portray himself as a DC outsider, but his latest move may show he’s quite the quick learner. As reported by the staff of the Associated Press via CBS News, and also by Jonathan Easley of the everything political The Hill news portal, both on Mar. 31, 2016, the Lone Star senator and presidential contender is jockeying to get opponent Gov. John Kasich bumped off the Montana Republican Primary ballot.
With the Republicans slated to hold their primary in the Big Sky State on June 7, the delegate gap between Cruz and front runner Donald Trump is apparently closing, especially with polls showing that Cruz will most likely win the delegate hefty Wisconsin GOP primary next Tuesday. And with Montana a winner take all primary, all the various campaigns fully understand that every delegate counts.
With Gov. Kasich somewhat of a latecomer to the race, he missed the initial deadline to have his name on the Montana ballot. But according to state law, the Ohio governor could still have his name added under the provision his campaign present a valid and notarized petition with a mere 500 signatures accompanied by printed names, addresses and phone numbers.
In a state with slightly more than 1 million residents, Greg Frank, co-chair of the Kasich campaign in Montana, managed to scrap together and submit 622 signatures under the wire. Obviously not exactly a lot, but enough to comply with state election law.
However, the Associated Press (AP) has reported they’ve obtained emails from the Cruz camp in which the junior senator from Texas is attempting to boot Kasich off the ballot, petition be damned. According to the AP, “Kasich’s petition contains signatures with invalid notaries, improper dates, mismatched phone numbers and illegible names, among other potential discrepancies.”
As reported, the Cruz organization falls back on “reasonable probability” as their proof that the petition in question isn’t quite kosher. Specifically, “Because John Kasich’s campaign filed only 622 signatures, and the minimum number of signatures required under Montana law is 500, there is a reasonable probability that material defects with his petitions reduce the number of valid signatures below the required minimum.” The compromised emails went on to claim, “and John Kasich is therefore not eligible for placement on the ballot.”
Perhaps illustrating just how important Montana’s mere 27 delegates are, June 7 also happens to be the last day of primary season. The next time the GOP does any voting will be at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 18 – 21, 2016. More than a few talking heads have described the upcoming convention at least as a good old fashioned donnybrook, to the more vivid and bloody description of a knife fight in a phone booth.
However, Co-Chairman Frank spoke plainly to counter the Cruz allegations. “The validity and the integrity of the signatures I can personally attest to. I personally collected the majority of them, and I personally submitted them to the county elections office.”
Far from done, Frank also fired away with, “Ted Cruz might be afraid of the competition. If they’re going to try dirty pool and dirty politics, I think there will be consequences with the electorate.”
Unfortunately for Team Cruz, the State of Montana isn’t exactly sending out good vibrations from Helena. Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch said Kasich’s name will remain on the June 7 ballot unless a judge orders otherwise. According to Sec. McCulloch, it’s not the state government’s responsibility to verify signatures, but county election officials.
While Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio now qualify as also-rans since they’ve suspended their campaigns, they will nonetheless still appear on the state’s ballot. In the meantime, neither camp has requested to have the respective candidates names removed.