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Manhattan man drops ballot challenge to Obama after ‘abusive’ reaction

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Friday, Sep. 14, 2012, at 2:27 p.m.
  • Updated Friday, Sep. 14, 2012, at 7:02 p.m.

— The man who tried to get President Barack Obama’s name removed from Kansas ballots withdrew his complaint Friday after the story became national news and he received dozens of angry calls and messages at his house and his office.

Joe Montgomery said he thinks the flurry of opposition to his attempt to get Obama off the ballot was designed to intimidate him, although he said he didn’t get any physical threats.

"There has been a great deal of animosity and intimidation directed not only at me, but at people around me, who are both personal and professional associations," Montgomery wrote in an e-mail to Secretary of State Kris Kobach. "I don’t wish to burden anyone with more of this negative reaction, so please immediately withdraw any action on this objection."

Montgomery, a communications coordinator at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University, told The Eagle that he expects the Board of Objections — made up of Republicans Kobach, Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer — to drop the issue.

Kobach said the board still will meet at 10 a.m. Monday to formally close the case and add whatever additional information is available to the record.

“There's no possibility of Obama's name coming off the ballot when there's no objection,” Kobach said.

The withdrawal came just a day after the Objections Board heard Montgomery’s testimony and decided it would seek Obama’s certified birth certificate and other documents before ruling Monday whether Obama should be taken off the ballot.

Montgomery’s complaint had contended that Obama shouldn’t be eligible to be on Kansas ballots because Obama’s father is from Kenya. He said case law shows that to be eligible to run for president, a candidate must be born in the United States to citizen parents. He also questioned the validity of Obama’s birth certificate.

Claims that Obama isn’t eligible to be president have largely been discredited. He released his long-form birth certificate last year. Hawaii officials also have repeatedly confirmed his citizenship. His mother was a Kansas native.

A lawyer for the Obama for America campaign responded to Montgomery’s challenge with a page and a half letter that said the allegations are like those of “the scattered remnants of ‘birthers’ in other proceedings” and entirely without merit.

Kobach and Schmidt said Thursday during the hearing that they were disappointed the Obama campaign didn’t provide more evidence and a more robust argument. They voted to seek certified documents from other states before ruling on Obama’s eligibility to be on Kansas ballots.

Kobach said the delayed decision didn’t give credence to the claim that Obama shouldn’t be on the ballot in Kansas. But he said the board needed to see the evidence.

“I think that regardless of whether a person has doubts or not, it’s incumbent upon the State Objections Board to do its job thoroughly and not make a snap decision, especially in a case of this magnitude,” he said.

But when news broke that Kansas would seek more documents before deciding if Obama’s name should appear on Kansas ballots, Internet users posted hundreds of messages on news websites, Twitter, Facebook and other sites – often expressing disbelief that Kansas would drag out the issue.

Montgomery declined to specify who, beyond himself, had gotten angry calls and messages. He said he had been deleting messages left at his office as soon as he realized they were related to his personal political activity.

"It’s not like physical intimidation," he said. "It’s just being abusive with the kinds of messages."

He said it’s not fair for people to direct their comments about his beliefs at his friends, family and co-workers because he is acting as an independent citizen. He said anyone who wanted to debate the issue should have gone to the hearing Thursday, which was publicized.

Montgomery said he knows he has supporters, but he said the calls and messages seemed largely negative.

"People are more likely to complain than they are to pat you on the back,” he said. “That's always been the nature of most issues."

Jeff Morris, K-State’s vice president for communications and marketing, said Montgomery is acting as a private citizen, and the university respects his free speech rights.

“We have people on campus with lots of different political views,” he said.

Contributing: Associated Press Reach Brent Wistrom at 785-296-3006 or bwistrom@wichitaeagle.com.

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