CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Just how unpopular is President Barack Obama in some parts of the country? Enough that a man in prison in Texas got 4 out of 10 votes in West Virginia’s Democratic presidential primary.
The inmate, Keith Judd, is serving time at the Federal Correctional Institution in Texarkana, Texas, for making threats at the University of New Mexico in 1999. Obama received 59 percent of the vote to Judd’s 41 percent.
For some West Virginia Democrats, simply running against Obama is enough to get Judd votes.
“I voted against Obama,” said Ronnie Brown, a 43-year-old electrician from Cross Lanes who called himself a conservative Democrat. “I don’t like him. He didn’t carry the state before and I’m not going to let him carry it again.”
When asked which presidential candidate he voted for, Brown said, “That guy out of Texas.”
Judd got on the state ballot by paying a $2,500 fee and filing a form known as a notarized certification of announcement, said Jake Glance, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.
Attracting at least 15 percent of the vote would normally qualify a candidate for a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. But state Democratic Party Executive Director Derek Scarbro said no one has filed to be a delegate for Judd. The state party also believes that Judd has failed to file paperwork required of presidential candidates, but officials continue to research the matter, Scarbro said.
Voters in other conservative states showed their displeasure with Obama in Democratic primaries last March.
In Oklahoma, anti-abortion protester Randall Terry got 18 percent of the primary vote. A lawyer from Tennessee, John Wolfe, pulled nearly 18,000 votes in the Louisiana primary. In Alabama, 18 percent of Democratic voters chose “uncommitted” in the primary rather than vote for Obama.
Obama’s energy policies and the Environmental Protection Agency’s handling of mining-related permits have incurred the wrath of West Virginia’s coal industry. With the state the nation’s second-biggest producer of this fossil fuel, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and Sen. Joe Manchin —both Democrats have championed the industry — have declined to say whether they will support Obama in November.
Hillary Rodham Clinton beat Obama handily in the state’s 2008 primary, and he lost the state to Republican John McCain in the general election. The latest state-by-state Gallup poll, released in January, found Obama with a 32.7 percent approval rating in West Virginia. The president had a lower approval rating only in Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma and Wyoming.
“Keith Judd’s performance is embarrassing for Obama and our great state,” outgoing West Virginia GOP Chairman Mike Stuart said.
Presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney won West Virginia’s GOP primary Tuesday with more than 69 percent of the vote, with 93 percent of precincts reporting. Rick Santorum followed with 12 percent, while Ron Paul had 11 percent.
Brown, the Cross Lanes electrician, went to the polls with his 22-year-old daughter, Emily. She planned to vote for Judd, too, until she found out where he has been living.
“I’m not voting for somebody who’s in prison,” she said.
She was certain about one thing: “I just want to vote against Barack Obama.”