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Huntsman misses Arizona ballot while lesser-knowns flood it

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WASHINGTON – Tucson singer-songwriter Al “Dick” Perry is realistic about his chances as a presidential candidate, figuring he’s “probably not going to get more than about 38 votes” in Arizona’s Republican primary.

That could still be more than former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, whose campaign missed Monday’s deadline to get on the ballot. He is the only major Republican not on the ballot.

Officials with the campaign did not return repeated calls and emails Tuesday – though they may have been busy with the New Hampshire primary election on which Huntsman has spent the majority of his time.

But regardless of what happens in New Hampshire, it may be too late for Huntsman in Arizona: State election officials certified the ballot without his name Tuesday afternoon and sent it to counties, which will print 1.2 million copies for the Feb. 28 election.

The omission surprised political watchers in the state – including one writer who started a contest to show how easy it is to register in Arizona.

“I think it’s wonderful that the state of Arizona offers this chance for the people,” said Jim Nintzel, senior writer for Tucson Weekly. “Arizona is all about freedom.”

Nintzel’s effort to get ordinary people on the ballot – including Al Perry, among others – began in 2008 when he learned a candidate only had to fill out a two–page form and have a notarized signature to be listed for Arizona’s presidential primary.

He continued Project White House this year, offering the paper’s endorsement to the Republican and Green Party candidates who perform best in a series of challenges.

Nintzel claims that at least 10 of the 23 GOP candidates in Arizona and three of the six Green Party hopefuls are Project White House participants. The Democratic Party is not holding a primary in Arizona.

Arizona Republican Party spokesman Shane Wikfors called Huntsman’s oversight a “missed opportunity for the candidates and voters of Arizona.”

Wikfors said the state party does not coordinate candidate filings but is concerned when Republicans fail to make the ballot. For the moment, however, he said the party is focused on registering as many Republican voters for the primary by the Jan. 30 deadline.

There is at least one new Republican voter in the state. Al Perry said he had to switch party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in order to run, noting that the last Republican president he identified with was Abraham Lincoln.

Perry, whose middle name is Richard, said he thought about registering as Rick Perry, but didn’t want the hassle he might get from the other Rick Perry on the ballot – the governor of Texas. So he went with “Al ‘Dick’ Perry.”

The Tucson Perry’s platform calls for creating a fairer tax rate for the middle class and reforming the nation’s “legalized bribery” system of campaign contributions and lobbying.

Even though he’s in the race, Al Perry is disappointed that Huntsman is not: “The funny thing about Huntsman is … I’d probably vote for him. He’s the only guy who said anything that made any sense.”

Nintzel concedes candidates like Al Perry are unlikely to win the Arizona primary, but said that shouldn’t stop them from running.

“Project White House has just as good a chance as winning the Republican nomination as Newt Gingrich,” Nintzel said.