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Robb's vote may not go to Bush

Charleston Daily Mail
September 8, 2004, Wednesday

GOP mayor may use his Electoral College role to lodge protest against the president

South Charleston Mayor Richie Robb said today he may vote against George W. Bush in the Electoral College, even if the president carries West Virginia's popular vote.

Robb, long known as a maverick Republican, said he is considering using his position as one of the state's five Republican electors to protest what he believes are misguided policies of the current administration.

"It's not likely that I would vote for Kerry," Robb said. "But I'm looking at what my options are when it comes time to cast my vote."

State election law dictates that the party of the candidate who wins the popular vote for president gets to send its five electors when the Electoral College convenes in mid-December.

At their state convention in June, the members of the West Virginia Republican Party chose the top five runners-up from their gubernatorial primary to serve as electors. Robb, who finished fourth in the May primary, will be among them.

Robb, who said he might reconsider if Bush changed his foreign and domestic policy priorities, said he is researching his options under state law.

There is no provision in the West Virginia code that controls what an elector does at the Electoral College or provides any punishment for faithless electors.

There have been eight electors in American history who have chosen to go against the popular vote in their home states, including Margarette Leach of Huntington, who declined to vote for Michael Dukakis in 1988, even though Dukakis carried West Virginia.

Leach cast her presidential vote for Dukakis' running mate, Lloyd Bentsen instead. In 2000, one of the electors from the District of Columbia withheld her vote altogether in protest of the district's lack of statehood.

Robb said he is considering either voting for a third candidate or withholding his vote altogether.

"I know that among some in my own party, what I'm discussing would be considered treasonous," Robb said. "But I'm not going to cheerlead us down the primrose path when I know we're being led in the wrong direction."

Fellow elector Rob Capehart was somewhat taken aback by Robb's flirtation with defection.

"We have a duty and responsibility to cast our electoral votes behind the president if he wins West Virginia," Capehart said. "Because that's what the Republican Party expected when they chose us."

Capehart raised the possibility that in a very close election, every electoral vote becomes crucial. In such a case, Robb would wield great power by virtue of his willingness to defect.

"Will Richie Robb decide who the next president is?" Capehart asked. "It's more important for us to maintain an allegiance for the people of West Virginia than an allegiance to our own personal viewpoint."

Robb's complaints about Bush center on what the mayor believes was a misguided policy on Iraq and the swelling budget deficit.

"I only started to really rethink my position seriously after the accusations about Kerry's service in Vietnam, though," Robb said. "I served in Vietnam, and I think Bush's surrogates, and I think really the Bush campaign, went beyond the line with those ads."

But state GOP Chairman Kris Warner was confident that Robb would come around.

"I'm confident that he'll do the right thing," Warner said. "He's a veteran. And although he's an independent mayor of South Charleston and does things his own way, he also knows what it's like to be part of a team."

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