Duke weighs primary State Republicans shun his candidacy

December 04, 1991|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- As David Duke considered entering Maryland's March 3 presidential primary, a state official said the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard and neo-Nazi leader would be put on the ballot unless he ended his campaign.

An aide said Mr. Duke, who is expected to kick off his presidential campaign as a Republican today, was "leaning toward running in Maryland." Mark Ellis, chief of campaign research for the Louisiana state representative, noted that a final decision will be made within two weeks.

"We're looking real hard at Maryland. We think that the voters there are conservative," he said. "They share a lot of David's positions on various issues . . . welfare reform, affirmative action."

Mr. Duke, who was defeated three weeks ago in a racially charged campaign for governor of Louisiana, has scheduled a noon news conference today at the National Press Club in Washington to declare his bid for the 1992 Republican presidential nomination.

"We want to run in every part of the country," said Mr. Ellis, adding that the campaign staff is now considering primaries up to the March 10 "Super Tuesday" primary in the South. Mr. Duke does not plan on entering New Hampshire's February primary -- the first in the nation.

Meanwhile, Maryland Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr. said he will advise Mr. Duke -- along with two other Republican and seven Democratic presidential candidates or hopefuls -- that he will place their names on the Maryland primary ballot unless he is told they are disavowing their candidacies. Included are political columnist Patrick Buchanan, expected to announce next week for the GOP nomination, and New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, a possible Democratic candidate.

Mr. Kelly said he notifies those the news media have targeted as potential candidates.

"I'm required to do it every four years by law," explained Mr. Kelly, recalling similar letters to candidates in 1988, including one to Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who later asked that his name not be placed on the ballot.

But state Republicans were critical of this move by Mr. Kelly, an official of a Democratic administration.

"I think jumping the gun like this is political," said Kevin Igoe, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party. "Nazi Klansmen are not welcome in Maryland," he added, insisting that Mr. Duke is "not a Republican."

"They have an active Republican they don't want to claim," countered Mr. Kelly. "That's their problem."

Republican candidates have until Dec. 20 and Democrats have until Dec. 27 to contact his office and request not to be placed on the ballot, Mr. Kelly said. The dates are based on the differing time frames of the two political parties for announcing a primary bid.

Area Republicans reacted with alarm to a possible Duke candidacy. Carol Arscott, chairwoman of the Howard County Republican Central Committee, said the committee is expected to pass a resolution denying Mr. Duke the electoral assistance offered to other Republicans, ranging from use of its headquarters and mailing lists to invitations to candidates' nights.

L "He deserves to be treated like the pariah he is," she said.

Maryland is the home of the candidate's father, David Hedger Duke, an engineer who lives in Montgomery County and who has declined to comment on David Duke's activities.

How much support his son would garner in the state is uncertain. Mr. Duke's gubernatorial campaign attracted the financial backing of some 145 contributors throughout Maryland, according to records from the Louisiana Ethics Commission.

"We've had the protest vote in Maryland before," noted John T. Willis, author of "Presidential Elections in Maryland," pointing to the 1972 Democratic primary victory of former Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace. "[Mr. Duke is] just really continuing a message that's been tried in Maryland and has gotten votes. It's scary."

But Mr. Willis said Maryland Republicans differ markedly from their Louisiana counterparts. Maryland has a tradition of electing liberal Republicans in the mold of Representative Constance A. Morella, R-Md.-8th, and former Sen. Charles McC. Mathias Jr.

A strong campaign by President Bush and his supporters could keep Mr. Duke to about 20 percent of the vote or below, Mr. Willis predicted.

Still, the author said, a Duke candidacy in the midst of a sluggish economy, anger over legislative redistricting and an expected turbulent legislative session focusing on budget cuts and taxes could produce a greater percentage of the vote.

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