A federal judge in Virginia has ruled that three GOP presidential contenders can join Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) lawsuit challenging his disqualification from the state’s primary ballot.
The move means that former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman (R) will be parties in the suit, filed by Perry last week, against the Virginia Republican Party chairman and members of the state board of elections.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who also had sought to join the suit, was not included in the order. She dropped out of the race Wednesday after a last-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.
The ruling means the case against Virginia’s GOP chairman and members of the State Board of Elections would go forward even if Perry, who had a poor showing in Iowa, dropped out of the race, said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law.
“They would keep it alive,” he said. “Once they’re parties, they step into the shoes of the plaintiff.”
Only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) qualified for the March 6 ballot by collecting the required 10,000 signatures.
Virginia’s ballot-access rules are considered the toughest in the nation. But candidates who failed to meet them get no sympathy from Gov. Bob McDonnell (R).
“Heck, I did it twice. It can’t be that hard,’’ McDonnell quipped at a news conference on Capitol Square on Wednesday.