Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign has asked that state Sen. Stacey Campfield not be seated as a Tennessee delegate to the Republican National Convention, even though he won election as a delegate in Super Tuesday voting.
The request was made in a letter to the Republican State Executive Committee. But Adam Nickas, executive director of the state Republican party, says it would be “more appropriate” to challenge Campfield before a Republican National Committee credentials committee, not the state organization.
As far as state-level Republicans are concerned, Nickas says, Campfield is a duly-elected delegate for Gingrich, unless and until he resigns. Campfield has not resigned.
Campfield served as co-chairman of Gingrich’s campaign, but then resigned that post and endorsed Rick Santorum for the Republican presidential nomination on the weekend before Tennessee’s Super Tuesday voting. Santorum led all candidates in Tennessee’s March 6 voting and, according to the state GOP’s official count, will be entitled to 29 of the 55 delegates decided by the voting.
Mitt Romney finished second, entitled to 17 delegates, while Gingrich was third and gets nine Tennessee delegates, based on the final state party’s determination.
The Republican SEC meets Saturday to formally designate Santorum delegates, since no one was on the ballot as a Santorum delegate and to appoint delegates who were not elected – typically prominent Republican elected officials.
Campfield said today that he was asked to resign by a Gingrich campaign official, but replied that he understood resignation would mean Gingrich loses a Tennessee delegate. He also said the told the official he wa open to looking at other options. The official, the senator said, told him, “We’ll get back to you,” but never did.
Actually, says Nickas, if Campfield resigned, the Gingrich campaign could fill his slot with an alternative delegate and not lose one of the nine delegates the former House speaker won in Tennessee’s Super Tuesday.
Campfield said he is prepared to go to the convention as a Gingrich delegate and vote for Gingrich on the first two ballots, just as party rules require. The senator says the Santorum campaign has offered him a seat as a Santorum delegate.
In a letter to SEC members, John Fluharty, director of delegate access for the Gingrich campaign, says:
“Please be advised that Senator Stacey Campfield does not have the consent of the Newt Gingrich for President Campaign to be seated as a delegate at the Republican National Convention.
“As a matter of information, Senator Campfield, while originally qualifying as a delegate candidate for Speaker Gingrich, waited until early voting had concluded in Tennessee to publicly disavow his commitment to Speaker Gingrich and announce his endorsement of another candidate for President. This mislead all the Tennesseans who voted early. His actions resulted in Tennesseans who supported Newt Gingrich erroneously voting for a delegate candidate they believed would support Speaker Gingrich throughout the nominating process. The campaign has requested that Senator Campfield resign his position as a delegate. He has chosen to refuse our request.
“Regardless of your choice of candidate in the Republican Presidential primary, I hope you will agree that each candidate has the right to have delegates who will remain committed to his effort until such time as he is nominated or releases his delegates to vote their conscience. I hope you will also agree that Tennessee Republicans deserve to have representation that respects the nominating process and will discharge their duties at the convention in a sober and reasonable manner.
“On behalf of Speaker Gingrich, I ask that you vote to remove Senator Stacey Campfield from the rolls of the Tennessee delegation so we may appoint someone who will vote in accordance with the wishes of the people of Tennessee. They cast their vote for Senator Campfield because he was listed as a delegate for the Speaker. The people of Tennessee deserve to have their vote for the Speaker count at the Republican Nominating Convention. The only way to make that happen is by allowing us to replace Senator Campfield. If you require additional information, please feel free to contact me or your fellow SEC Member, Mark Winslow.”
Winslow was active in the Gingrich campaign and ran as a delegate, too, but did not receive enough votes to win a seat. Campfield did.
Campfield said he believes he “made the right decision” by switching to Santorum, whose Super Tuesday win in Tennessee “helped break up the Romney train so the race can continue.”
The senator said he still believes Gingrich is “a great guy and would be a great president” but his campaign appears to have stalled.
Nickas said that Campfield “was a duly elected delelegate authorized by the Gingrich campaign and he was elected.” The campaign officially consented to his being on the ballot as a Gingrich delegate earlier this year, he said, “and it’s my understanding that consent is binding unless the delegate chooses to resign.”
The “most appropriate” procedure for the Gingrich campaign to unseat Campfield, Nickas said, would be for a registered Tennessee Republican voter to file a challenge before the RNC credentials committee.