Fort Worth – Just a short time after celebrating their placement on the notoriously difficult Oklahoma ballot the Gary Johnson campaign faced another ballot access hurdle: Tennessee.
Tennessee doesn't have a high threshold or burdensome geographical requirements. Though it does require the candidate to sign and notarize several petition pages, the Volunteer State requires only 275 certified signatures. The state tossed out enough signatures to make Johnson's campaign 71 signatures short of qualifying for the ballot.
During Tuesday's campaign events in Odessa the campaign was alerted to the problem. Johnson's scheduled tour through Texas left yesterday as the only day that they could have resolved their Tennessee dilemma.
All Odessa to Dallas flights, including Johnson's, were canceled due to weather, leaving the campaign with no choice but to drive the 330 miles to DFW Airport overnight.
"I challenged the speed limit laws but I didn't break a hundred," said Johnson's Southwestern advance, Tom Mahon. They left Odessa around 2:45am, arriving at the airport about an hour before Johnson's hastily scheduled 8:30am flight.
Johnson landed in Nashville at 10:30 and was greeted by Johnson's Tennessee campaign director, Jim Tomasik, and then hustled over to the Tennessee Division of Elections office. Johnson was in such a hurry that he didn't have time to actually go in the building and submit his documents to state officials; he signed all of his papers on the stairs of the building. Johnson thanked his volunteers and rushed back to the airport to catch a 1:00pm flight back to Dallas.
Tomasik said that after Johnson left volunteers gathered 151 additional signatures to qualify him for the ballot, but those signatures still need to pass state scrutiny.
"I am reservedly confident. I think we have a really good shot at it," said Tomasik.
Back in Texas Johnson had to cancel several media appearances on Wednesday but he returned to the state early in the evening, giving him some time to salvage the remainder of his planned events. It was a whirlwind day for the candidate.
"A couple hours sleep over a 40 hour period, that's not much," said Johnson.
Johnson said this wasn't as crazy as when he had to go to New Hampshire at the last minute and file paperwork to get on the Republican primary ballot. Johnson was infuriated that he was alerted by the press that his campaign had not filed in time, forcing him to cancel several events in Phoenix and fly across the country in order to make sure his name appeared on the ballot in the Granite State.
"What happened in New Hampshire was a serious issue that shouldn't have happened. Inexcusable. This (Tennessee) is obscure stuff," he said.
Johnson appeared exhausted answering questions about his support for the Fair Tax at a private luncheon with potential donors in the Stockyard district of Fort Worth. Johnson, a supporter of the proposed national sales tax, told concerned donors that the Fair Tax would only go into effect with the repeal of the 16th Amendment, avoiding the possibility of a national sales and income tax.
At a book signing event in the afternoon at Pop's Safari cigar bar Johnson appeared energized. The campaign originally reserved the backroom of the bar but the huge turnout caused them to move the whole event outside to their patio. Johnson took questions, on topics ranging from which federal departments he would eliminate (He would cut the federal budget by 43% but would not say what departments, if any, he would eliminate) to what would be a positive result short of winning (qualifying for federal matching funds for a 2016 run on the Libertarian line), under the hot Texas sun for over an hour before going back inside to sign books and pose for photographs.
Johnson has stops in Waco and Austin tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @GarrettQuinn for live tweeting of his campaign swing through the Lone Star State all weekend long.