How do GOP prez candidates get on CT primary ballot?

So it’s natural on the day of the Iowa caucuses for local politicos to begin turning their attention to April 24, the day Republican voters will head to the polls in Connecticut to select a candidate to run for president.

Some folks might wonder how the candidates – seven at this point – get their names on Connecticut’s ballot, considering recent news reports about Newt Gingrich’s failure to petition his way into Virginia’s primary.

According to Av Harris, journalist-turned-spokesman for Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, his boss has sole discretion in choosing who makes the April 24 ballot.

Her only guideline?

“She announces who will appear on the ballot for the presidential primary by virtue of the fact they are ‘generally and seriously advocated and recognized in the national or state news media,'” Harris said. The statute is 9-465.

Harris said the office maintains a binder of media coverage of the 2012 presidential race.

“We don’t have to include every single piece of press coverage but we pretty much look at the array of candidates who have been covered – and they’re everybody you know about,” Harris said. “We’ve been filling the binder for months. The Elections Department – and I’m included in that – we prepare a memo for (Merrill) saying we recommend this person and don’t include this person and here’s why.”

Harris said Herman Cain will be an interesting case in 2012 of the office’s descretionary powers.

“He has not officially withdrawn but has suspended his campaign,” Harris said. “We can recommend to her you shouldn’t probably include him or should. I don’t think anybody would rationally argue Herman Cain is still running for president.”

Harris said candidates can also petition their way onto the primary ballot by collecting 7,500 signatures of registered Republican voters.

But at this point Gingrich is safe, Harris added.

“They called us (and asked), ‘What do we have to do?'” Harris recalled.  “We said, ‘Yeah, you’re probably fine unless you quit between now and April 24.'”

Brian Lockhart