Whitnum accuses the state of losing her petitions

Linda McMahon is not the only Greenwich resident with her eye on the United States Senate, and Lee Whitnum has a very simple message for the secretary of the state’s office.

She will not be ignored.

Ms. Whitnum, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party’s nomination to replace the retiring Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) earlier this year, had attempted to get on the November ballot as an independent candidate. However, last month the secretary of the state’s office ruled that she had not submitted enough valid signatures and would not be permitted onto the ballot.

Ms. Whitnum insists she had more than double the 7,500 needed signatures of registered Connecticut voters to get onto the ballot and accused the office of waiting too long to rule on her petition, giving her no recourse to remain in the race. She also said that there appear to be more than 100 pages missing from her submitted petition.

“I’ve been trying to get them to cooperate and I am basically ignored,” Ms. Whitnum said this week in a campaign press release. “More than 100 pages of signatures are missing, and you’d think they’d care to get to the bottom of this.”

Ms. Whitnum said she turned in 16,000 valid signatures and said she has still not received any kind of confirmation that all her petitions were accepted when she turned them in for review in August. In attempting to get confirmation and find out what happened to the ones she claims are missing, Ms. Whitnum said, she was abused by the office.

“I called on Aug. 7 to find out if the package had arrived and I had to call back seven times,” Ms. Whitnum said. “I was hung up on all times. One woman even said to me, ‘Your candidacy is a joke. You are a joke.’ Can you imagine spending 12 weeks on a grueling, all-consuming petition drive and all you want to know is if a package arrived and you get abused? I’m still being abused and have been since I became a candidate in 2007.”

Ms. Whitnum is now demanding action from Secretary of the State Denise Merrill, wondering in her campaign press release why she is being ignored.

“What could be more important to the secretary of state than possible election tampering and possible sabotage in her office,” Ms. Whitnum said. “What could possibly justify her not responding to numerous emails and a registered letter?”

Av Harris, spokesman for the secretary’s office, said in a statement to The Post, “We keep very good track of all petition pages that are turned into our office. As you may or may not know, the Secretary of the State does not verify the signatures turned in for a nominating petition.”

Mr. Harris said that all petition pages received by the office are turned over to town clerks in Connecticut, who verify the number of signatures from registered voters in their town for the particular petition and then report back to the office.

“We have not lost one page of petitions that we received from Ms. Whitnum or any other candidate, nor have we misplaced any document received from town clerks containing pages of signatures and numbers of verified signatures for a nominating petition,” Mr. Harris said. “We usually recommend to petitioning candidates that they photocopy the petitions they are turning in, in case anything is misplaced, so a comparison can be made. We are a public agency and as such, Ms. Whitnum is welcome to come in any time and check our files for the signatures she turned in. Since [Oct. 1] our office has been in touch with Ms. Whitnum and we have sent her copies of all petition pages we received related to her campaign for U.S. Senate, as she had requested of us.”

Ms. Whitnum has been a controversial figure ever since she first ran for office in 2007, challenging Cos Cob resident Jim Himes for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Himes won that primary and is now seeking his third term in office, and Ms. Whitnum has earned a firestorm of criticism for her stance on Israel, which was criticized as being anti-Semitic in 2008 by then-Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy.

Ms. Whitnum unsuccessfully attempted to run for the U.S. Senate in 2007 and then this year tried again, creating a huge controversy when she called U.S. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-5th District) a “whore” during a televised debate for what she considered his too-close ties to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobby that she blames for the Iraq War. Mr. Murphy is now the Democratic candidate running against Ms. McMahon, and Ms. Whitnum criticized them both last month, saying Mr. Murphy had “sold his soul to the Israeli lobby for position” and Ms. McMahon “has shown no foreign policy knowledge,” adding that she didn’t believe Ms. McMahon “has it in her to read a book from start to finish.”

 

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