by Max Brantley
Secretary of State Mark Martin has been endeavoring to maintain a place on the ballot for a felon, Fred Smith, a wacky former Democratic legislator who turned up minutes before filing deadline to seek a seat in the legislature again. He claimed to have had his record expunged. Faced with accepting the filing or calling Smith a liar, the Democratic Party accepted the filing but told him it would be conditional on his eligibility to run. Smith had misrepresented affairs. He remains a convicted felon.
The Democrats told Martin this week not to certify Smith for the ballot because they had confirmed he was ineligible to file. Just as, say, it might have done if it learned it had accepted a filing from someone not of legal age. The secretary of state's office, anxious to create controversy, refused the Democratic Party's entreaty. It cited case law that it contends says the party under no circumstances may be the judge of eligibility. By that interpretation, there's little point in having a review of filing at all. Any and all must be accepted and it must be left to others to sue if matters like felonies are at issue. Republicans are OK with this, clearly. They fielded a federal convict in 2010 and fought to keep him on the ballot. Their current House delegation includes a convict and they're good with that.
Anyway, a reader noticed yesterday that Martin's letter Wednesday denying the Democratic Party's request to remove Smith was addressed to the Democrat Party. As anyone in politics knows, Republicans have long insisted that all Republicans refer to the Democratic Party — inaccurately — as the DEMOCRAT Party. The slur was developed in the 1940s and this link gives you some good commentary on the practice. It is meant to disparage. It drives Democrats nuts, which in turn makes juvenile Republicans giggle. But, the point here: It is NOT the name of the party. In official communications on a matter that might wind up in court, you'd think Secretary of State Mark Martin might, for once, leave the partisan snottiness behind and get the name right.
I criticized this pettiness on Twitter last night. One of Martin's many office flaks and alibiers responded on Twitter that, well, the Democratic Party had referred to the most honorable and exalted secretary of state in its salutation as "Mr. Martin" rather than "Secretary Martin." I **** you not. I had no idea that form of address was required or that Mr. was a sign of contempt. Nonetheless, it was not a sufficient answer to the inaccurate address for the Democratic Party. But the alibi did come from the same Republican apologist who'd described as humorous three days of Rush Limbaugh's violently libelous and creepy misogyny against Sandra Fluke.
The flak, recognizing the weakness of his position, then insisted that the "Democrat Party" label was a typo. I didn't buy it. To omit two successive key strokes and then type a space and then a new word does not have the appearance of a typo. Certainly not when you look at ANOTHER letter the office sent the day before: It was also addressed to the DEMOCRAT Party. The first typo was catching I guess.
This is trivial stuff, I know. But it gives you an idea of the mindset and maturity of Martin's office and helps place in context their protestations that they have no partisan intent in forcing Smith onto the ballot despite his felony record. (Republican Party Chair Doyle Webb's ready partisan pitch that the Democrats are somehow to blame for Fred Smith is further proof of partisan mischief.)
Republic Secretary of Fate Murk Fartin took a pledge to uphold the state Constitution. The Constitution bars public service by a felon. Wouldn't upholding that pledge require him to move expeditously to be sure Smith and others like him don't stand for election? Surely his crack legal staff can come up with an angle or get the proper court papers filed. Even if they can't bring themselves, on account of party dogma, to type the words Democratic Party.