Culver won't have a primary challenger after all

Jonathan Narcisse told the Des Moines Register’s Kathie Obradovich yesterday that he won’t run against Governor Chet Culver in the Democratic primary. He plans to register for the ballot as an independent candidate.

Narcisse says he collected enough signatures to get on the ballot (the deadline is Friday), but he said his changed his mind about filing based on what he heard from Iowans as he’s traveled around the state.  “They really want an independent voice,” he says, someone not tied to either party.

I asked Narcisse if he would be willing to release the signatures, because otherwise people will be skeptical that he was able to collect them. He didn’t outright refuse but he also didn’t say he would release them. He said he’s used to dealing with skepticism from the media but he’s focused on making his case to voters around the state.  But if he’s going to say he’s collected them, he should prove it.

Obradovich posted a press release from Narcisse, which explained his decision and thanked the volunteers who “helped me obtain the signatures that I needed to be on the June 8th primary ballot.”

Ever since Narcisse announced plans late last month to run for governor as a Democrat, many political observers have privately predicted that he would not be able to meet the signature requirements. Narcisse can speak knowledgeably about public policy for hours, but his campaign manager is a management consultant and former teacher with no previous political experience. Democrats seeking statewide office in Iowa had to submit more than 4,000 total signatures (0.5 percent of the party’s statewide vote in the 2008 presidential election), including at least 1 percent of the party’s vote total in that election in at least 10 counties. (Statewide Republican candidates needed to meet the same percentage targets, but that worked out to fewer total signatures because Barack Obama did so much better than John McCain in Iowa.)

A strong statewide organization could collect more than 4,000 signatures on short order; Republican candidate Rob Gettemy’s campaign collected 3,000 in the second Congressional district in just two weeks. I agree with Obradovich that observers will remain skeptical about Narcisse’s campaign if he doesn’t release his nominating petitions. Republican blogger Craig Robinson writes today that Narcisse’s story has shifted dramatically in the last three days. He concludes, “The inability for Narcisse to get on the Democratic primary ballot is a deadly blow to any credibility he may have had as a candidate.”

Ed Fallon had been recruiting some Democrat other than Narcisse to challenge Culver, but nothing materialized. In my opinion, Culver didn’t deserve a primary challenger despite the many complaints you hear about him from Iowa Democrats.

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