Gatewood Galbraith to pay tobacco shops to help collect signatures

05/18/2011 03:46 PM

Independent candidate for governor Gatewood Galbraith is paying tobacco shop owners to help collect the signatures of voters that he needs to get on the Nov. 8 ballot — a move election officials say is legal.

Galbraith and his running mate, Dea Riley, must collect more than 5,000 signatures of registered voters by Aug. 9 to be on the general election ballot.

In a letter to tobacco shop owners across the state, Galbraith says he’ll pay shop owners 50 cents per legible signature from a register voter they collect for a Galbraith nominating petition. The letter including copies of petitions for the owners to use to get their customers signatures.

Click to view the letter:
GatewoodLetter.pdf [107.27KB]

Galbraith’s campaign manager, Ralph Long, said the move akin to hiring field representatives or other campaign agents, such as pollsters or media consultants. And they sought out tobacco smokers and shop owners, whom the campaign view as key constituencies, he said.

Gailbraith said the offer wasn’t to pay voters, which could leave the campaign open to to accusations of vote buying.

“This is not a general public offer,” Galbraith told Pure Politics.

Galbraith said in the letter and to Pure Politics that smokers are not “second-class citizens” and that his campaign stands up for tobacco smokers who have come under fire for smoking bans in cities across the Commonwealth.

Mary Allen, a spokeswoman for the state Board of Elections, said no laws prohibit Galbraith’s campaign from reimbursing the shop owners.

“There is nothing in the election laws governing this,” she said.

Long, Galbraith’s manager, said the campaign’s reasoning for using the tobacco shops results from a “manpower issue” not a support issue.

“If I had 1,000 volunteers, we would need to do this,” Long said.

Long said the campaign already has half of the 5,000 needed signatures.

- Reporting by Kenny Colston


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