Keith Judd: How An Inmate Challenged President Obama In West Virginia's Primary
Some people really don't want President Barack Obama to win a second term. In West Virginia's Democratic presidential primary Tuesday, Keith Judd, an inmate at a Texas prison, won 41 percent of the vote. If Democrats weren't embarrassed by enough by the competitiveness of a mullet-haired jailbird to the Harvard-trained presidential incumbent, apparently Judd is also entitled to have at least one delegate represent him at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., this summer; he only needed 15 percent of the vote to qualify.
Keith Judd, a.k.a. Inmate No. 11593-051, is currently serving a 17-year sentence at the Beaumont Federal Correctional Institution in Texas. He was found guilty of extortion and making threats against the University of Mexico in 1999, and even if he somehow won the presidential election this November -- which might at least please 41 percent of West Virginia Democrats -- he won't be released from prison until June 24, 2013, five months after Inauguration Day.
Interestingly, this wasn't Judd's first contest. In 2008, he filed to run as a Democratic candidate for president in 14 states, but he appeared on the ballet only in Idaho. After Idaho's Democratic presidential primary on May 27, Judd managed to finish third with 1.7 percent of the vote, behind then-Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He got 734 votes.
According to Judd's biography on VoteSmart.org, he was born on May 23, 1958, in Pasadena, Calif., and he describes himself as a "Rastafarian-Christian." He studied political science at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Politics in 1998, and he reportedly has several degrees in physics and nuclear physics from the University of California. He has been married since April 28, 1995, and while his wife's name is unknown, his biography says she is an entrepreneur and stock broker.
Judd says his favorite president was Richard Nixon.
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But how did Judd get involved in politics in the first place?
Jake Glance, a spokesman for the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office, told the AP that Judd got onto the ballot by filing a notarized certification of announcement, and paying a simple $2,500 fee. Glance did not say how Judd got the money to pay the fee.
Even though Judd exceeded the minimum percentage of the vote -- 15 percent -- required to qualify for sending a delegate to the DNC this summer, nobody has yet filed to be a delegate for Judd, according to Derek Scarbro, the executive director of the state Democratic Party. Reportedly, Judd has also not filed any of the appropriate paperwork required of presidential candidates, but Scarbro says officials are currently investigating the matter.
Why Judd Got Votes
While Judd may perceive this news as a confidence boost, he may be disappointed to know that most voters admitted voting for him out of spite.
Ronnie Brown, a 43-year-old electrician from Cross Lanes, said he voted for "that guy from Texas" simply because he doesn't want to see Obama in the White House after 2012.
"I voted against Obama," Brown said. "I don't like him. He didn't carry the state before and I'm not going to let him carry it again."
Brown's daughter Emily planned on voting for Judd like her father, until he realized who he was.
"I'm not voting for somebody who's in prison," she said. "I just want to vote against Barack Obama."
It's no surprise that West Virginia residents are unhappy with Obama: The coal mining industry, which accounts for $3.5 billion annually in West Virginia's gross state product, has been disgruntled over Obama's new energy policies and the EPA's curbing of mining-related permits in order to protect the environment. The state of West Virginia, which is the second biggest producer of coal in the U.S., will try to convince its two leading Democratic champions for the mining industry, Sen. Joe Manchin and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, to vote against Obama in November. So far, they have refused to endorse their president.
"When you have the top Democrats in the state expressing doubts about this president, would there be more inclination to cast a protest vote?" asked Robert Rupp, a professor of political science at Wesleyan University.
It's more likely that Republican presidential favorite Mitt Romney will win West Virginia: According to the West Virginia Gazette, recent statewide poll projected Romney would beat Obama in West Virginia by a margin of 54 percent to 37 percent. Nevertheless, Judd's sizable percentage of votes shows a general displeasure with Obama's leadership.
"Keith Judd's performance is embarrassing for Obama and our great state," said Mike Stuart, the chairman for the West Virginia GOP.
Judd will also be disappointed to know that his feat is not unique; voters have pulled this kind of stunt before. Several non-serious candidates have won substantial votes in presidential primaries in conservative states. John Wolfe, a lawyer from Tennessee, won 18,000 votes in the Louisiana primary; Randall Terry, an anti-abortion leaser, won 18 percent of the primary vote in Oklahoma; and finally, 18 percent of all voters in the Alabama primary picked "Uncommitted" instead of Obama.
But in particular, West Virginia has never really had many fans of Obama. In the state's 2008 primary, he was soundly beaten by Hillary Rodham Clinton, and he also lost to Republican John McCain in the general election. The most recent Gallup poll released in January said West Virginia's approval rating of Obama was a paltry 32.7 percent; the president had lower ratings only in Oklahoma, Wyoming, Idaho and Utah.
In West Virginia's Republican presidential primary, Romney, the GOP's presumed candidate, won with more than 69 percent of the vote. He was followed by Rick Santorum with 12 percent, and Ron Paul with 11 percent.
It is unknown if Judd plans to follow up with sending a delegate to the DNC, but we'll update you with more information as we get it.
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