A family of three GOP delegates gets Santorum on ballot in an Ohio district

March 4, 2012 8:18 am
  • Richard and Amy Russell, delegates for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in his quest for the Republican nomination for president, at their home near Bellevue, Ohio. Their son Ben is the third delegate in their district.
    Richard and Amy Russell, delegates for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in his quest for the Republican nomination for president, at their home near Bellevue, Ohio. Their son Ben is the third delegate in their district.
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BELLEVUE, Ohio -- The Republican candidates' pitched battle for Ohio's 66 delegates on Super Tuesday runs deeper than the blaring voices and glaring television lights.

The final count could come down to a click on Facebook in a log home amid the state's dormant cornfields.

A little over two months ago, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was considered a marginal candidate, lost in the party's crowded debates, his opinions barely sought or noted.

He didn't have the money of the other candidates and he didn't have the organization -- the paid staffers and volunteers working on his behalf to get his name out there.

Or to get his name on the ballot.

Ohio has 16 congressional districts, each of which sends three delegates to the party's national convention in Tampa in August. But the deadline for submitting delegate names was Dec. 30, long before Mr. Santorum's campaign hit its stride.

Once the paperwork settled in the Secretary of State's office in Columbus, it turned out that Mr. Santorum would not be on the ballot for district delegates in three districts.

And the only reason he has a chance for delegates in District 7 is that Richard E. Russell and his family decided to take a chance.

Mr. Russell, 55, is business manager for the Norwalk Reflector, a newspaper in the north-central part of the state. Like many Ohioans, he grew up in a Democratic household, but he shifted his allegiance to the GOP as part of the Reagan Revolution in the 1980s.

He has always been interested in politics and has served on the school board and as Richland County fiscal officer. After he and his wife, Amy, moved to their log home in rural Bellevue four years ago, he joined the Huron County Republican Executive Committee.

One evening in December, he was on his computer, reading about the Republicans running for president. At one point, he had been drawn to Georgia businessman Herman Cain, but Mr. Cain had dropped out of the race, and Mr. Russell was searching for "the next-best conservative."

"I was on Facebook, and I 'liked' the Santorum for Ohio page," he said. "The next thing I knew, I got a message asking 'How would you like to be a delegate?' At first I thought it was a scam because you can't be too careful on the Internet."

Politics Editor James O'Toole contributed. Dan Majors: dmajors@post-gazette.com and 412-263-1456.
First Published 2012-03-03 23:16:16

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