Indiana Election Commission, led by Romney state co-chair, to decide Santorum’s ballot fate

David Martosko Executive Editor
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Dan Dumezich, a Scherville, Indiana lawyer–lobbyist who chairs the Hoosier State presidential campaign organization of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, also chairs the election board that will decide whether former Senator Rick Santorum will appear on the state’s May primary ballot.

“I can be impartial,” Dumezich told the Indianapolis Star on Monday. “It doesn’t present a problem for me. Of course, if someone wants to argue [that he should step aside] I’d listen to it.”

The Election Commission will convene hearings soon to determine whether Santorum met the requirements for placing his name in contention for the 27 “pledged” GOP delegates to be awarded May 8. Another 17 unpledged delegates will round out the contingent for the June statewide Republican convention.

On Monday, four voters filed official challenges to Santorum’s candidacy, claiming that he fell eight signatures short of the 500 required from one of Indiana’s nine congressional districts when he filed his candidacy papers last week.

The Star reported that while Santorum’s campaign claims it submitted more signatures than it needed, election officials ruled that he only collected 492 valid signatures from the Seventh Congressional District, an area including most of Marion County and the city of Indianapolis.

On January 18, Santorum’s campaign announced that his GOP rivals, including Romney, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Texas Rep. Ron Paul had all agreed to refrain from challenging the sufficiency of his candidacy filing in Illinois.

But that was before Santorum began to enjoy a campaign surge that threatened Gingrich’s post-South Carolina momentum and Romney’s overall sense of presidential inevitability.

On Feb. 7, the former Pennsylvania senator swept nonbinding votes and caucuses in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado, and a nationwide Pew poll released Monday showed Santorum edging out Romney among Republicans by two points, 30 percent to 28 percent. Santorum also holds a commanding 15-point lead over Romney in nearby Michigan, according to the most recent Public Policy Polling survey.

Indiana voters have until Friday to lodge objections to the ballot access of individual candidates. The four who exercised that option Monday are Jerry Bickle of Columbia City, Philip A. Smith of Indianapolis, Reynaldo M. Farias of Noblesville and Christopher C. Watson of West Lafayette.

Watson, a Purdue University engineering graduate student, told the Star he is a Republican and “a big believer in playing by the rules.” The other three were unavailable for comment.

Dumezich, a former state representative who flirted with a 2010 U.S. Senate run to replace the retiring Evan Bayh, said he hopes to convene a hearing soon. “In my mind,” he told the Associated Press, “I can always maintain my objectivity.”

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