As published in The Santa Fe New Mexican
Sept. 8, 2004
Unless Democrats can disqualify more than half the 31,000-plus petition signatures submitted Tuesday for independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, the controversial consumer advocate will be on November’s general-election ballot in New Mexico.
Carol Miller, Nader’s New Mexico coordinator, submitted the petitions to the Secretary of State’s office Tuesday.
Miller said the petition drive was successful despite “organized and well-funded malicious attacks” by Democrats, who fear Nader will draw enough votes from their candidate, John Kerry, to tip the state to President Bush.
Although the state has only five electoral votes, New Mexico is a battleground state in what most pundits think will be a close election.
Miller said Nader petition gatherers had been harassed and intimidated by Democrats. “We’re just lucky we had some strong people,” she said.
“I’m calling on the New Mexico Democratic Party to take the high ground,” Miller said. “I’d encourage the Democrats not to divert their energy on Ralph Nader and concentrate on getting out the vote for John Kerry.”
State Election Director Denise Lamb said she expects to certify Nader’s name for the ballot this week. Nader needs valid signatures of 14,527 registered voters.
Lamb said her office only checks whether signatures are legible and contain a name and address. She said her office doesn’t check voter-registration lists to determine if each signature on a Nader petition is valid. Instead, the office checks to see if names are legible and include addresses.
However, a private group — such as the Democratic Party — could file a lawsuit to challenge the validity of petition signatures. Matt Furtado, a state Democratic party spokesman, said Tuesday that Democrats might do just that.
“Given Ralph Nader’s submission of insufficient signatures in Virginia, Missouri, Arizona and Pennsylvania, we will be reviewing those (New Mexico signatures) very carefully.”
Any lawsuit would have to be filed quickly because voting for overseas military begins Sept. 18. Absentee voting for other New Mexico voters begins Oct. 5.
The president of an anti-Nader group that purchased television commercials in New Mexico last month said Tuesday that it looks as if Nader will be on New Mexico’s ballot.
David Jones of The Nader Factor said his group will concentrate on trying to convince potential Nader voters that “the only way to stop the Bush agenda is to unify with the Democrats. Issues they care about — job outsourcing, health care, consumer rights, the environment — are all being undermined by the Bush presidency.”
Jones said he didn’t have the state-by-state breakdown for money spent trying to stop Nader, so he couldn’t say how much The Nader Factor has spent in New Mexico. The organization — which is a 527 political group — has spent about $300,000 nationwide, he said.
That figure doesn’t include the legal costs for the Democratic parties of various states fighting Nader in courts. According to Ballot Access News — a newsletter dedicated to minor political parties — the Nader campaign has pending legal battles in seven states.
Furtado repeated state Democratic claims that Republicans in the state are using Nader’s campaign to hurt Kerry. He pointed to state Sen. Rod Adair, R-Roswell, who circulated Nader petitions via e-mail.
Adair said Tuesday he only gathered “a couple of thousand” signatures for Nader.
But Miller said she didn’t accept any of Adair’s petitions. “I said all along that we didn’t need Rod Adair’s help,” she said.
However, Lamb said, “I don’t know if they’re from Rod Adair, but there sure are a lot of signatures from Chaves County.” Chaves is Adair’s county.
Adair has agreed that Nader’s name on the ballot helps Republicans. But he’s countered that the Libertarian Party, whose candidate Michael Badnarik is on this state’s ballot, draws votes away from the GOP.
Also on the New Mexico presidential ballot are the Green Party’s David Cobb and The Constitution Party’s Michael Peroutka.
“Voters want choice,” Adair said. “It’s part of democracy, despite what the Democrats want.”
In 2000 Democrat Al Gore beat Bush in New Mexico by 366 votes statewide. In that election, Nader, who was running as the Green Party candidate, got 21,251 votes, which was about 4 percent.
Most observers don’t expect Nader to get nearly that much support here this year. An Albuquerque Journal poll on Sunday showed Nader with only about 1 percent.
Nader had good news and bad news in other states Tuesday.
In Wisconsin — another battleground state — Nader supporters turned in twice the number of signatures he needs to get on the ballot there. Only 2,000 valid signatures are required in Wisconsin.
More on Nader Here
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