| Virginia Tourism Corp.; WhiteHouse.gov

All three Democrats, 13 Republicans make Virginia Super Tuesday race

With 12 minutes to spare, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore filed petitions with the State Board of Elections to get on the ballot for his own state's March 1 presidential primary.

"I told his campaign I was impressed with their effort," Virginia State Elections Board spokesman Martin Mash told AMI Newswire.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki failed to file any petitions with the State Board, making him the only major party presidential candidate not to appear on the key swing state's Super Tuesday ballot.

"December 10 at 5 p.m. is a hard filing deadline," Mash said. "If the petitions aren't in by then, there's really nothing candidates could do, expect sue, like some campaigns did in 2012."

Neither the Gilmore nor the Pataki campaigns responded to repeated requests for comment. According to his Facebook page, Pataki was in Puerto Rico Thursday, where he announced he had filed his paperwork to be on the island commonwealth's presidential primary ballot.

The bumper crop of candidates for 2016 will feature all three Democratic contenders and 13 Republicans. In 2012, President Barack Obama ran uncontested on the Democratic side, while only two Republicans, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, qualified for the GOP ballot.

Until 2012, state law required presidential candidates to submit 10,000 signatures from registered voters, with 400 from each of the state's 11 congressional districts.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who filed only 6,000 of the then-required 10,000 signatures, was joined by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in filing a federal lawsuit against Virginia's ballot access law, alleging it violated their First and 14th Amendment rights. The suit also challenged the requirement that petition circulators be eligible or registered to vote in Virginia.

U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney agreed with the plaintiffs that the requirements were likely unconstitutional. But he ruled against them on the grounds they knew what the requirements were months in advance, but sued only after they had failed to meet them.

In 2013, the General Assembly cut the signature requirements in half. Petition circulators no longer need to be Virginia residents, either.

With the ballot access test over, the question now becomes how many of the candidates will still be in the running by the time Virginia voters head to the polls.

University of Richmond political science Professor Dan Palazzolo told AMI Newswire the field could look much different by then.

"If historical precedent holds up, there is a good chance [Democratic former Maryland Gov. Martin] O'Malley will be gone before the Virginia primary," Palazzolo said. "The GOP race could be down to four or five candidates."