Last call for candidates

Candidates have come and candidates have gone in the run-up to one of the most active election seasons in years, but today is a final deadline: Those planning to petition their way onto the Aug. 10 Democratic or Republican primary ballot have until 4 p.m. to submit the required signatures.

Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Peter Schiff is trying to make history as the first person to win a spot in a statewide primary by petition since the direct primary process was established in 2003. He needs about 8,500 signatures to qualify.

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Peter Schiff at campaign event: Pushing a petition drive (Mark Pazniokas)

Spokeswoman Jen Millikin said the campaign plans to submit 12,000 just to be safe. Those signatures will then need to be certified by the Secretary of the State’s Office.

“Everyone’s kind of running around,” she said, noting that the 150 campaign volunteers are collecting as many signatures as possible to ensure there will be enough valid names.

Schiff, an economist from Weston, was considered a long shot after he fell way short of the 15 percent Republican delegate votes needed at the nominating convention to lock him a spot on the ballot, but the most recent Rasmussen poll has him tied with the party-endorsed nominee Linda McMahon.

Only two other candidates have indicated they intend to petition their way on the ballot – Mark Greenberg and Bill Evans – both running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 5th Congressional District.

Greenberg, who sat out last month’s nominating convention for the seat, said last week he has collected the 1,800 needed signatures to guarantee himself a spot on the primary ballot against Sam Caligiuri, the endorsed candidate, and Justin Bernier.

“I have said from the day I announced my candidacy that I would take my message directly to the people of the 5th District,” Greenberg said.

It is unclear if Evans has collected the signatures, but he has scheduled a joint press conference today with Greenberg. During a phone interview Monday he would not say whether he has collected the needed signatures, but did say the press conference would be “game changer” for his campaign.

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Today’s petition deadline follows another cutoff date last week: By Friday, candidates who received the necessary 15 percent of delegate votes at the state Republican and Democratic nominating conventions had to announce if they would force a party primary.

For Republicans, there will likely be an Aug. 10 primary for the U.S. Senate, three of the five Congressional seats, governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general.

For Democrats, there will likely be primaries for governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller and secretary of the state. That last race went from a three-way to a two-way contest Monday when West Hartford state Sen. Jonathan Harris, who met the 15 percent threshold at the convention, dropped out.

“This was a difficult decision for me, but ultimately the right one,” Harris said. House Majority Leader Denise Merrill and former New Haven alderman Gerry Garcia remain in the running.

Party leaders have said they prefer to avoid party primaries, so candidates can focus their attention on their main opponent in the Nov. 2 election.

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“Of course I’m always concerned about the party coming back together after a primary, but these races are helpful in some ways in getting their names out there to voters” said Nancy DiNardo, Democratic Party chairwoman. “I am confident we will be able to become unified.”

In General Assembly races, only 12 districts will see an August primary election and almost 30 percent of the seats will be uncontested in the general election in November.

“I think there are a number of reasons why people are not getting involved right now,” said DiNardo. “It is not that unusual for people to run uncontested in areas where it would be very difficult for the other party to win. Certain seats are traditionally earmarked for a specific party so it’s difficult to find someone to run.”