WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate David Duke has asked that his name be removed from the March 3 Maryland primary ballot. State officials said today they will comply with the request.
"David's not running in Maryland," said Marc Ellis, director of research for the Louisiana state legislator.
Duke's decision spares the Maryland Republican Party the embarrassment of having the former Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi leader running in this state.
Party officials had reacted angrily when Maryland Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr., a Democrat, exercised his prerogative under Maryland law and said he would place Duke's name on the Republican ballot alongside those of President Bush and Patrick J. Buchanan.
Ellis said yesterday he had sent Kelly an affidavit of withdrawal, which candidates must file to be removed from the ballot. Today was the deadline to file for removal.
Kelly's office today announced it has received Duke's affidavit and is directing the State Administrative Board of Election Laws to print the primary ballot without Duke's name.
Ellis said Duke decided to forgo Maryland to concentrate on running in South Carolina and Georgia in early March.
"Something new has happened," Ellis said. "South Carolina is going to have a primary, it looks like. It's going to be on the seventh of March, I believe, and we're going to have to focus on getting on the ballot in Georgia the third of March and running in South Carolina the seventh and we just didn't think we had time to move in Maryland. Maryland would be a big effort. South Carolina having a primary is a very significant event to us."
"Maryland is certainly significant, don't get me wrong," Ellis quickly added, perhaps looking ahead to a possible general election campaign in which Duke would run as a third-party candidate.
Unlike Duke, Bush and Buchanan will be well represented on the ballot, with full slates of delegate candidates, according to their supporters. Yesterday was the filing deadline in Maryland for Republicans seeking to be presidential convention delegates.
Seth Stein, Maryland coordinator for Buchanan, said he was able to recruit the maximum number of delegate candidates needed, 24, on behalf of the conservative columnist and television commentator.
Buchanan delegate candidates include Michael Burns, a former executive director of the state party who will serve as Buchanan's state finance chairman, and two members of the Republican State Central Committee, Bob Weiss and Jim Bennett, said Stein, who lives in Thurmont and ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates last year.
Buchanan has positioned himself to the right of Bush. He hopes to get a significant percentage of the vote in the New Hampshire Feb. 18 and ride that into later primaries, including Maryland's.
A recent poll by Mason-Dixon Opinion Research Inc. in Columbia found Buchanan trailing Bush in Maryland 67 percent to 11 percent, with Duke at 4 percent and 18 percent undecided. Kevin Igoe, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said "the president's pretty strong in this state."
"Obviously, what vote Buchanan gets here is going to be influenced by what he gets in New Hampshire," Igoe said. "I think he has to do very well in New Hampshire in order to be credible. . . . He's probably got to hit 40 percent there."
Stein remains hopeful. "As far as Maryland is concerned, the conventional wisdom is that conservatives are a minority within a minority within the state of Maryland," he said.
"Certainly, even the state Republican apparatus is pretty much run by the moderate to liberal group. But we think that Pat's message really cuts through ideology. It talks to middle class folks."
Rep. Helen D. Bentley, R-2nd, who oversaw Bush's winning campaign in Maryland in 1988, said the president's prospects in Maryland depend on what happens between now and March 3.
"I think the president's trip to Japan is going to be very important. The outcome of that could raise his standing quite a bit," said Bentley, who filed yesterday to run again for the House, ending speculation about a Senate bid next year.
Bush is planning to leave for the Far East at the end of December.