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« Strategy Memo: Follow The Lawsuit | Blog Home Page | McConnell Leads Own Poll »

Kerry Foe Misses Ballot?

While he may be a long shot, national Republicans are excited that farmer and businessman Jim Ogonowski is taking on Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. The candidate, who came within five points of stealing a special election late last year in what is ordinarily heavily Democratic territory, was in Washington a few months ago meeting with reporters at the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and his gregarious personality would at least keep Kerry on his toes come November.

But all is for naught if Ogonowski can't make the ballot in the first place. Ogonowski's campaign is 82 signatures short of the 10,000 required to make the Massachusetts Republican Party primary ballot, the Boston Globe reports, meaning another high-profile GOP recruit could spend November on the sidelines instead of on the ballot.

Ogonowski's campaign maintains they have enough signatures that have yet to be sent from local elections offices to the Secretary of State's office. And the campaign has another few days to return extra signatures to the commonwealth's top elections official.

Even if Ogonowski reaches the 10,000 signer mark, not all of those signatures will be accepted. Campaigns, both for candidates and for ballot initiatives, know that not all the signatures they collect will be ruled valid. It is common for voters who are not registered in the proper party, or at all, to sign petitions erroneously, requiring candidates to collect extra signatures above the threshold.

And given that Ogonowski is not alone in the GOP primary field, any single bad signature will cause massive headaches. Businessman Jeff Beatty could challenge any signature at a hearing before the ballot law commission, forcing his opponent from the race and setting up what would likely be a much easier path to a Kerry victory. Beatty, who gained the required number of signatures, has already charged that some of Ogonowski's signatures are forgeries, the Boston Herald reported last week.

House Republicans have been taking all the heat lately for their mishandled efforts at clearing the primary field. But if Ogonowski can't make it to November after the NRSC backed him so openly, it will be another black eye for the Senate committee, which has already missed opportunities to recruit top challengers to Democratic senators in South Dakota, Arkansas, Iowa and Montana, among other states.