ANNAPOLIS -- A hearing challenging the Maryland secretary of state's decision to leave three candidates off the Democratic primary ballot was to continue today in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court.
One of the three candidates is Eugene McCarthy, who forced President Lyndon B. Johnson to drop his re-election plans in 1968 and inspired a generation of young political activists.
The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the decision of Winfield M. Kelly Jr., Maryland's secretary of state, to leave off the ballot Mr. McCarthy; Larry Agran, the former mayor of Irvine, Calif.; and A. Robert Kaufman, a Baltimore socialist.
McCarthy, 75 and a former senator from Minnesota, spent yesterday afternoon in court listening to lawyers grill the Maryland official.
Maryland law gives the secretary of state "sole discretion" to decide which candidates should be on the ballot, based on their general recognition in the national or Maryland news media.
Candidates also can get on the ballot by petition, but none of the three Democrats in the suit collected the required 400 signatures in each of the state's eight congressional districts.
Mr. Kelly testified that he looks for candidates who get repeated, sustained coverage in the newspapers he reads and on the television news programs he watches.
But questioned by the challengers' lawyer, John H. Morris Jr., Mr. Kelly said he doesn't subscribe to newspaper clipping services, search electronic data bases or make any special effort to see how much coverage candidates have attracted.
On the witness stand, the professorial Mr. McCarthy, with his shock of wispy, white hair, displayed the diffident, self-effacing style that made him a favorite with young political idealists in the '60s.
Asked if he was a presidential candidate, he said, "I'm trying to be, yes." He said this was his fifth try for the presidency, adding, "I've run three times and walked twice."
He said he favors the system in New Hampshire, where candidates simply pay a fee to enter a race.