How to qualify for New Hampshire's presidential primary
• Meet U.S. Constitution's requirements: Resident of United States for 14 years and 35 years of age• Be a registered Republican or Democrat• Pay $1,000Source: New Hampshire Department of State
WOLFE'S TRACK RECORD
1998 -- Loses Democratic primary for Congress in Tennessee's 3rd District2001 -- Loses mayoral race to Bob Corker, gets 2.8 percent of the vote2002 -- Loses race against then-U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp in 3rd District, gets 34 percent of vote as Democratic nominee2004 -- Gets 33 percent of vote as Democratic nominee against Wamp2007 -- Loses special state Senate election, fails to file campaign finance disclosure2008 -- Fined $10,000 by the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign finance; penalty still unpaid today2010 -- Gets 28 percent of vote as Democratic nominee against U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in 3rd District2011 -- Announces run for presidentSource: State documents, newspaper archives
John Wolfe cannot qualify for any Tennessee state or local office until he pays a 3-year-old $10,000 civil penalty, but he's still doing what any registered Democrat with $1,000 can do -- run for president in New Hampshire.
The loser of six federal, state and local elections since 1998, Wolfe's name will be on the ballot for New Hampshire's presidential primary election on Jan. 10.
He's accompanied by 30 Republicans and 14 other Democrats, including President Barack Obama.
According to a campaign news release, Wolfe wants support from "millions of Americans" who aren't satisfied with Obama's presidency but won't be voting Republican either.
In a phone interview Monday, Wolfe identified himself as a true progressive and called the president "a creature of Wall Street," naming several White House advisors who previously worked in the financial sector.
"The epicenter of the financial crisis is right there in the Oval Office," Wolfe said.
"I want to raise awareness -- people can decide at the ballot box whether I have a shot," said Wolfe, whose official campaign phone number goes to his personal cell phone. "That will be their decision. Obviously the odds are long. I won't deny that."
Many states with presidential primaries require numerous filing fees and petition signatures. Others let party leaders determine the list of candidates.
Wolfe's $10,000 state fine stems from his unsuccessful state Senate seat bid in 2007. Interviews and documents show Wolfe, an attorney, never filed a fourth-quarter campaign finance disclosure report with state officials as required by law.
"The penalty remains unpaid, and Mr. Wolfe is therefore barred ... from qualifying for election in any Tennessee state or local office until such time as he pays it," said John B. Allyn, counsel for the Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance.
Wolfe at first declined to discuss the situation, but later called the fine "my fault." He did not say when he would pay it.
"It involved the campaign's negligence in recordkeeping, not dishonesty," Wolfe said.
The $10,000 fine gains further significance when aligned with one of Wolfe's presidential ads, which challenges fellow candidate and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to a debate: "Dear Newt, $10,000 says you're wrong about the Palestinians," a reference to Gingrich's assertion that the Palestinians are an "invented people."
The state penalty does not appear to restrict Wolfe from running in federal elections, as evidenced by his current presidential bid and his run in last year's congressional election, when he received 28 percent of the vote as the Democratic nominee for Tennessee's 3rd Congressional District.
U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., won that race, doubling Wolfe's vote totals in the process.
Wolfe said he hasn't been successful here because Chattanooga represents "the red buckle of the Bible belt."
"What Democrat could have done any better? The best cactus seed ain't gonna sprout in the tundra," he said with a laugh. "Maybe I wasn't the best [Democratic] candidate in the world, but we don't know because nobody else tried that hard."
Contact staff writer Chris Carroll at email@example.com or 423-757-6610.