I Won the New Hampshire Primary

| 16 Feb 2015 | 04:52

    I won.

    I polled 23,808 votes. Russell J. Fornwalt of New York City polled 18,512. Ours were the only names printed on the ballot. Write-in candidates included Elizabeth Dole (9492), Alan Keyes (5426), John McCain, Steve Forbes, George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Gary Bauer, Orrin Hatch, Bill Bradley, Albert Gore, Wladislav D. Kubiak (40) and Sam Costello (35). Finally, there were 3908 scattered votes: people writing in themselves, or Donald Duck, or Donald Trump, which is all much the same thing. The New Hampshire vice-presidential primary is meaningless. No delegates are beholden by it to vote for me. I am far likelier to win the lottery or be struck by lightning than to find myself in the winner's circle at this summer's Republican National Convention, the presidential candidate and I with arms raised in victory, ready to lead the GOP into battle against eight years of Democrat corruption and dishonor. Why did I enter the primary? I wanted to test how many people would vote for someone of whom they knew nothing. Gary Bauer uttered some kind words after polling 1 percent of the vote in New Hampshire: "These are serious people here. They take their citizenship seriously. They've done a good job of looking at all of us."

    This is untrue. Bauer was being a good loser. That kind of statement could otherwise come only from someone who was either punch-drunk or believed he had a future in politics. A republic, literally, is public property: res publicae. Its owners, the public, must take an interest in its affairs or it becomes the property of anyone who takes possession?seizes power, if you will. That happens. Our politics is merely an oligarchy seeking moral ratification from the people. Perhaps the best rejection of the system is withholding one's sanction by not voting.

    But I digress. By contrast with the presidential candidates who spent millions of dollars on television, radio and direct mail advertising, I spent nothing beyond my filing fee. In fact, I returned to an old American custom: I waged a rocking chair campaign (unlike McKinley, who waged a front porch campaign because he had a front porch) and let the office seek the man. I did not even go to New Hampshire.

    Vice-presidential primaries grew out of the reform impulse of the Progressive era: to smash the power of bossism by placing all nominations in the hands of the people. Apparently, some states took this to a logical extreme.

    The first presidential primaries as we know them were in 1908. New Hampshire adopted a direct primary law in 1913 and applied it to the selection of delegates and alternates to the National Convention in 1920. In 1952, the state added a beauty contest for president and, inexplicably, vice president.

    Now there are only two vice-presidential primaries: New Hampshire and West Virginia. Ohio and Maryland had them too at one time. They were usually uncontested. Often, some local elder statesman (in Ohio, several aging Civil War generals were put up to it) would have his name placed on the ballot as a favorite son. H.L. Mencken considered entering the Maryland Democratic vice-presidential primary in 1912; he declined when a mayor of Baltimore filed himself. Of course, Mencken's candidacy would have been just a sick joke. (The eventual 1912 Democratic nominee and victor, the dapper, witty Thomas Marshall of Indiana, is remembered only for a response to Sen. Francis Newlands of Nevada, a would-be Cicero fond of stringing sentences beginning with "What this country needs..." "What this country needs," the vice president murmured from the chair, "is a good five-cent cigar.")

    In New Hampshire, at least one candidate usually enters each party's vice-presidential primary. They've included Austin Burton, a Republican who won the 1968 vice-presidential primary while arguing we should return the country to the Indians (he campaigned in a feathered headdress and claimed to have been made "Chief Burning Wood"). In 1972, Endicott Peabody, a one-term governor of Massachusetts, entered the Democratic vice-presidential primary, arguing the vice-presidency was important. He won, without opposition, and later received some 100 votes at the Democratic National Convention out of some 3000 cast.

    Fewer candidates enter the West Virginia vice-presidential primary, and in some years no one does. I briefly considered doing both. Then I decided I could do better things with the money for West Virginia's filing fee for vice president, which is $1750. (New Hampshire charges $1000.) In 1976, Ray Rollinson, who opposes abortion on demand and favors the relegalization of marijuana (not a bad platform, that), entered both primaries. He won New Hampshire. Alas, in West Virginia, he was soundly defeated by Dale Reusch, an imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan from Medina, OH.

    Entering a primary in New Hampshire is simple. One fills out a short form, attaches a check or money order for the filing fee and either mails or files it in person or by representative. The filing period for the 2000 primary was Nov. 1-19, 1999. Many candidates appear in person to file. Indeed, the secretary of state notes in his records whether a candidate appeared in person. I mailed mine, as did most candidates. Then I contemplated the great questions of the day from my rocking chair.

    The only controversy involving my candidacy, and everybody else's, was a complaint to the state's Ballot Law Commission by one Joseph S. Haas Jr. The gravamen of his complaint was the state had violated the law by accepting checks in payment of the filing fees. Mr. Haas argued under the state's Coinage Act of 1752 and an 1898 New Hampshire Supreme Court decision, State v. Jackson, that the only money recognized by the state was coinage of gold and silver. This would be news to New Hampshire's taxpayers. Like most Americans, they pay their taxes with checks rather than large sacks of coin.

    Mr. Haas' papers were outwardly strange. Some were written in a crabbed hand; others were typed, with self-conscious eccentricities of usage as "UN-answered" and "PAYment" or "'pay'ment," and handwritten corrections. Also, a man who signs his name as Joseph Sanders Haas Jr., Joseph S. Haas and Joe Hass in the same set of papers may be either suffering from identity crisis or just a slob. If gold and silver coin were the only lawful money in New Hampshire, then even Federal Reserve notes could not be received in payment of the filing fees. That would be illegal?an act of rebellion as potent as firing on Fort Sumter. By law, Federal Reserve notes?the paper money in our wallets?are legal tender for all debts, public and private. It must be accepted in payment of taxes, debts and fees.

    Mr. Haas obviously wanted to create a constitutional crisis on the cheap. The United States demonetized gold in 1934. It has not since been legal tender. In the mid-1930s, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled even bond indentures requiring payment of principal and interest in gold coin were enforceable only so far as to require legal tender, i.e., paper money. And our last circulating silver coins were struck in the 1960s.

    In common with the other candidates, I ignored Mr. Haas. The Ballot Law Commission held a hearing on Dec. 17, 1999. Mr. Haas first argued the candidates had defaulted by not responding to his complaint. The commission did not consider his motion. Then he argued a check was merely a promise to pay and not immediate payment. Hon. Richard Marple, a state representative (New Hampshire's legislature has 400 representatives in the lower house; they are paid $100 a year, which, if Mr. Marple's capacity for self-delusion is an indicator, may be too much), argued checks were not legal payment and only gold and silver coins are legal tender. The commission, after analyzing the Uniform Commercial Code, determined a check was not a promise to pay, but an order, a written instruction to pay money signed by the person giving the instruction, acceptable as a payment, and dismissed Mr. Haas' complaint. The Republic was saved from the spectacle of a primary with no candidates on the ballot.

    Then I heard from my opponent. On Jan. 25, I received an envelope addressed to Hon. William Bryk from Russell J. Fornwalt. Mr. Fornwalt sent me a small Russell J. Fornwalt for U.S. Vice President calendar printed in blue, red and black on light cardstock. He included a reproduction of his advertisement from the Carriage Towne News, of Kingston, NH, in which he promised to restore dignity and integrity to the office of vice president and called himself "the choice of the voters," inviting people to learn more about his campaign by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to his post office box.

    Finally, he enclosed a press release, bearing a black-and-white photocopy of a color snapshot of Mr. Fornwalt, a benign, grandfatherly man, seated at a secretary with several papers before him. The release is unsteadily typed with a manual typewriter, and two errors are neatly corrected with a blue ballpoint pen. Mr. Fornwalt wrote the following:

    Russell J. Fornwalt, Republican candidate for vice-president in the New Hampshire Primary Election on February 1, 2000, has only one goal: Get the Vice out of the vice-presidency and put Virtue back in. What is "Vice"? (Dictionary Definition No. 1: moral depravity or corruption; wickedness; a moral fault or failing).

    Among other things, Candidate Fornwalt says he will not stand for the pardon of terrorists. He will not use YOUR telephones in YOUR White House for political fundraising. He will not resort to any kind of funny-money monkey-business. He will not be the Bag or BEGman for any national committee...

    Fornwalt points out that there have been 45 VEEPS, starting with an Adams in 1789, including an Andrew, an Arthur, an Adlai, an Alben, an Agnew, ET AL. Fourteen of these 45 (about one out of 3) later became Presidents (with or without "VICE") one way or another.

    Fornwalt's campaign literature bore neither telephone number nor e-mail address. I mailed him an acknowledgment and wished him well.

    Two journalists tracked me down. One, a charming woman from The Press Trust of India, combined a sultry alto with a Pukka accent. She was irresistible and knew it, which made her even more so. The other, Mr. Al McKeon of The Milford Cabinet, combined excellent questions into my motives with an appeal to help him meet his deadline. I couldn't resist that, either. Both said, "We've never heard of you before." I replied, "Well, we all have to start somewhere."

    "I've talked to reporters on papers throughout the state and they say they've never heard of you."

    I murmured, "Oh, just put it down to censorship by the liberal media."

    "They say people like you who run for president or vice president?people they've never heard of?tend to be nuts."

    I said, "I haven't heard of them, either, but I'd never make that kind of generalization, even after reading the Manchester Union-Leader."

    I don't believe either interview saw print.

    Primary Day and Night came and went. I periodically glanced over the newspapers and the Internet to find the results, until my moment of glory came. One can't say it was my 15 minutes. No one noticed. And McCain still hasn't called me.