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Texas inmate gives Obama a run in WVa primary

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POSTED May 9, 2012 8:34 p.m.


 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — As he tells it, Keith Russell Judd is a Harvard-educated musician and activist whose mother was a 1920s actress and father a designer of the first atomic bomb. He is also inmate No. 11593-051 at the Texarkana Federal Correctional Institute.

And from that cell in northeast Texas, without any organized support, he gave President Barack Obama a run for his money in West Virginia's primary, winning four of every 10 votes Democrats cast Tuesday.

Voters were not swayed by claims that Lillian Russell was his mother (even though she died before he was born), that he's a Rastafarian-Christian or that he attended the non-existent University of California at Los Alamos. They likely didn't know he's a fan of Mozart and Stephen King, that he belonged to Federation of Super Heroes from 1976 to 1982, or that he's doing 17 years for making threats.

They just know he's not Obama.

Obama lost West Virginia to Republican John McCain in 2008 and has been to the state only once since he was elected — for a memorial service for 29 coal miners killed in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine disaster.

West Virginians haven't seen him since.

What they believe — what they are repeatedly told — is that he's waging a war on coal mining. They know that top Democrats including Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin talk about that war all the time — and won't talk about whether they voted for Obama themselves.

They know, 31-year-old Morgantown chef Jonathan Dower said Wednesday, that the president's polices hurt the fossil fuel industries that support some of the state's most stable and best-paying jobs.

"When you have a president who's trying to be as environmentally conscious as he can but hurts the people that he serves," Dower says, "you're going to have some sort of retaliation."

And retaliation there was: Obama carried 59 percent of the vote to Judd's 41 percent — more than 72,400 votes. But nearly 25,000 voters failed to even bother with the presidential race, a resounding condemnation by silence.

Unofficial results show Judd outpolled Obama in 10 coal-producing counties.

Judd's colorful resume and claims — from being a fortune teller, to founding an organization when he was 5 years old, to bowling a perfect game — are detailed in a biography on Project Vote Smart, a nonpartisan watchdog group. Research director Chris Lynn said the group currently has information on 10,335 candidates nationwide, including 339 presidential candidates.

It relies on information submitted by candidates and doesn't verify information in profiles.

Judd's younger brother, Monty Judd of Albuquerque, N.M., said he was unaware of the West Virginia primary until it was reported Wednesday but knew of Keith's other attempts to get on ballots.

"I don't know why he's doing it, but I know he's into it," Monty said.

Monty said Keith graduated from a public high school in Albuquerque and studied music for several years at the University of New Mexico without graduating. He called his brother a "musical genius" who sang and played piano and electric bass. He said only that their parents were deceased.

Monty said he doesn't believe Keith is dangerous, but he said he worries about his mental stability and whether that can be properly treated in the federal prison system.

Federal court records show Keith Judd was sentenced to more than 17 years after being convicted in Midland County, Texas for mailing a threat to a woman for extortion purposes.

David Clyne Greenhaw of Odessa was Judd's court-appointed attorney. Greenhaw said Judd had a relationship with the woman and had previously sought a divorce from her, but the judge in that case ruled that the couple in fact hadn't been married. The attorney said — and records confirm — Judd thought they should have been married as common law husband and wife.

Greenhaw said Judd's sanity was an issue in the trial, but that Judd was found competent. He said he has been receiving letters from Judd for years in which the return address says: Keith Russell Judd for President.

"That's the way he sends all correspondence to my recollection," Greenhaw said.

Judd's political aspirations date back at least 20 years. He ran for mayor of Albuquerque, N.M., in 1993 and that state's gubernatorial race the following year. He ran for mayor a second time in 1997, winning 61 votes as a write-in candidate.

The road to the White House for Judd did not begin with Tuesday's primary. Judd has sought to join the ballot as a presidential candidate since at least 1996, court records show. His resulting lawsuits are just some of the hundreds of the court petitions he has filed across the country — so many that he has been sanctioned by federal judges for meritless and malicious filings.

In 2004, he waged a write-in campaign for president in Idaho and got no votes. But in 2008, he paid a $1,000 filing fee with a check from his account at a federal prison and got on the ballot as a presidential candidate in Idaho with Obama and Hillary Clinton. Idaho had just changed its election law, ending the requirement that candidates get signatures from more than 3,000 citizens to get on the ballot. It changed the law again last year.

Judd got on West Virginia's ballot by paying a $2,500 fee and filing a form known as a notarized certification of announcement.

His performance, however, was purely symbolic.

While a candidate would normally secure a state delegate to the national Democratic convention for attracting at least 15 percent of the vote, Judd did not designate a delegation chair or complete other steps required of presidential contender.

State Democratic Chairman Larry Puccio acknowledged frustration with the president's energy policies but tried to focus on the positive, noting six in 10 still backed him.

"I think many of our folks recognize that he inherited tough times, and that he's continuing to work to get the country back on the right track," Puccio said.

He believes those who sat out Tuesday will be there when Obama needs them this fall.

Richard Harner, a retired federal employee from Morgantown, hopes dissension among Democrats grows until November, when he plans to vote Republican "simply in protest."

He believes Obama lied to coal miners, promising them that coal had a role in the nation's energy plan, then abandoning them by calling it a "dirty" fuel later.

"He turned on them," Harner said. "... He slapped them in the face."

But if voters were protesting, said 23-year-old bartender Gregory Evan Wright, "they were protesting for the wrong reasons."

"Obama, he's just a transitional president. It's going to take more than four years to fix what the Bush administration left," Wright said. "If the people lack that much knowledge of politics, I feel like they really probably shouldn't vote or speak out."

Wright said he's not embarrassed by Judd's showing because he believes most Americans will understand that a Democratic minority doesn't speak for all West Virginians.

"It just gives you an idea of how ignorant people are, really," he said.

Although West Virginia is 94 percent white, voters said race is less of a concern than policy.

Still, a former president of the NAACP Charleston was dismayed by support for Judd.

"It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," said Coston Davis Jr., director of leadership, mentoring and judicial affairs at West Virginia State University. "It puts West Virginia in a very poor light, and it puts us in a category that, for the most part, I don't think we deserve."

 

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