Lee Whitnum is still stewing over the way she says the state’s mainstream political establishment dismissed her candidacy for the U.S. Senate in 2012.
In a letter to Secretary of the State Denise Merrill dated July 19, Whitnum is calling for a recount of the signatures she collected last year as part of an unsuccessful petition drive.
Whitnum claims that state election officials lost a packet containing “thousands of signatures” that she said would have put her over the hump of 7,500 names to earn a spot on the ballot.
Estranged from the Democratic Party after seeking its nomination, Whitnum came up short by 1,289 signatures.
“In the past and most recently, I’ve had a great deal of conflict with your disrespectful staff,” Whitnum wrote Merrill. “I would call to ask a simple question and I would be hung-upon and told disparaging remarks such as ‘your campaign is a joke and you are a joke.’ In my opinion it not the role of your staff members to decide who is a viable candidate. That is the role of the people.”
Av Harris, a spokesman for Merrill , disputed Whitnum’s claim that she was treated shabbily.
“Every member of the Elections Division within the Secretary of the State’s office that dealt with Ms. Whitnum did so in a professional and courteous manner,” Harris told Hearst Connecticut Newspapers Wednesday. “Ms. Whitnum’s campaign simply did not turn in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. If she felt at the time that we handled her petitions in an irresponsible way or lost pages of signatures that disqualified for the ballot, she had every opportunity as a candidate and as a citizen of Connecticut to take us to court and have a judge rule on that question.”
Whitnum points out in her letter that she sued state elections officials, only to withdraw the lawsuit, a decision she says she now regrets.
She says the only equitable remedy is for the state to conduct a recount at the town level and, if she met the signature requirement, give her a spot on the ballot in 2016 when U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is up for re-election.
State elections officials characterized Whitnum’s request as not feasible.
“We will review this letter and we will be in touch with Ms. Whitnum, as we have done often,” Harris said. “But the notion that the Secretary of the State in any way has the legal authority to put someone on the ballot for a future election, you would have to change a lot of laws to empower the Secretary of the State to do that. Candidates qualify for the ballot through various means. It’s not within the authority of the Secretary of the State to decide who goes on the ballot.”
In 2010, Whitnum ran for Senate, but missed the state Democratic convention because she got lost. In 2008, she mustered 12 percent of the vote in the 4th District congressional primary against Jim Himes, who went on to win the general election against Republican incumbent Christopher Shays.
Controversy has followed Whitnum on the campaign trail, where her criticism of Israel’s alliance with the U.S. has spawned allegations of anti-Semitism.
Democratic leaders rebuked Whitnum last year when she called Chris Murphy, now the state’s junior U.S. senator, a “whore.”