RICHMOND — Former congressman Virgil H. Goode Jr. hand-delivered more than 20,500 signatures to Virginia election officials this week, hoping to become the next president of the United States. The move could instead make him the next Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate widely believed to have played the role of spoiler in the 2000 election.
With the race for president possibly coming down to Virginia and a few other swing states, Goode could tilt the election if he secures a spot on the state ballot.
It’s a prospect that worries some Republicans and delights Democrats, who will have to wait until next week to find out whether enough of the signatures hold up for Goode to qualify. As a conservative, Goode would likely take more votes from Republican challenger Mitt Romney than President Obama, observers from both parties said.
“It’s a very real concern,” said state Sen. William M. Stanley (R-Franklin), who occupies the seat Goode held for 24 years. “He’s still very popular in the 5th [Congressional] District. . . . Everybody knows Virgil. I think the world of Virgil. . . . But a vote for Virgil is a vote for Obama.”
Senate Minority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) described Goode as a serial party-switcher who has grown more conservative. “If you’re a conservative and you want your views reflected, Virgil’s your guy,” he said.
Saslaw hardly meant that as a compliment. Was it, perhaps, more of an invitation to Romney supporters to consider Goode? “That never entered my mind,” Saslaw said, chuckling.
Goode, 65, was a Democrat, independent and Republican before his current run under the Constitution Party banner. He describes himself as a conservative but thinks he will appeal to voters of all stripes.
“This may be the year America wakes up and says, ‘I’m tired of billionaire PACs telling me who to vote for. I’m going to vote for a grass-roots candidate,’ ” he said. “That would be the biggest shake-up Washington ever had, if big money didn’t dictate who the candidates were and who got elected.”
Along with his anti-PAC stance, Goode takes other positions that don’t break easily along party lines.
He proposes a “near-complete moratorium” on issuing green cards to immigrants until the national unemployment rate, now more than 8 percent, dips below 5 percent. That could play well with some Democrats as well as Republicans, particularly in the southern Virginia region he represented for 12 years in Congress. That part of the state never recovered from the decline of its long-lost textile and furniture industries.
“You can’t keep bringing people in from other countries, finding them jobs when Americans need jobs first,” Goode said.
Goode is in favor of a balanced budget, and he wants to get there through reduced spending, not higher taxes. Yet he would make substantial military cuts as well as domestic ones.
But on social issues, Goode’s positions appeal to conservatives. He is opposed to abortion, including in cases of rape and incest. He is opposed to same-sex marriage. He opposed repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which prevented gays from serving openly in the military.
Goode needs 10,000 signatures, with at least 400 from each of the state’s 11 congressional districts, to get on the ballot. Election officials around the state were certifying the signatures from their districts Friday. They were expecting to complete the process next week, said Justin Riemer, deputy secretary of the Virginia State Board of Elections.
The Libertarian Party and the Green Party also had submitted signatures on behalf of their presidential contenders before Friday’s noon deadline. Riemer declined to say how many signatures they submitted. The Libertarian Party did not respond to messages seeking comment; the Greens said they filed 15,000 signatures.
Earlier this week, Goode lost his place on the Pennsylvania ballot to a Republican challenge. But he is on the ballot in 25 states, “give or take two or three,” he said Friday, speaking by phone while en route to Michigan, where he was going to try to secure a spot.