H. Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire fighting to get on the ballot in all 50 states as an independent presidential candidate, brings his battle to Maryland this weekend.
Local volunteers are to meet Saturday to launch a petition drive to try to get the 63,186 signatures of registered voters needed to get Mr. Perot's name on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
"This is a real grass-roots movement," said Jim Kudzal, a Charles County engineer who was among the earliest volunteers. "This is going to be a kickoff meeting for anyone who is interested in helping to get Ross Perot on the ballot in Maryland."
The meeting is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Ramada Inn in Parole, an Annapolis suburb. Mr. Perot, 61, is a 1953 graduate of the Naval Academy.
State election officials must receive the signatures by Aug. 3 for Mr. Perot's name to appear on the ballot, according to state elections board officials.
Don Shirley, 48, Mr. Perot's campaign coordinator in Houston, said the Maryland petition drive "is one of the fires we have breaking out all over the country. . . . it's the most exciting thing I've ever been in on."
The Maryland drive is being organized by Joan Stallings of Epping Forest, who has known Mr. Perot since 1969 when she was the first president of the National League of Families, made up of relatives of servicemen missing in Vietnam.
Her first husband, Air Force Col. Bobby Vinson, was shot down over Vietnam in April 1968.
Mrs. Stallings said Mr. Perot organized an expedition to Paris in December 1969 for relatives to try to meet with representatives of what was then North Vietnam to request information about men who were missing in action.
Since then, Mrs. Stallings said she has written Mr. Perot several times urging him to run for president. When he announced on a radio talk show last Tuesday that he would run this year if his name appeared on the ballot in all 50 states, she said she immediately called his Texas offices to volunteer as Maryland coordinator.
Mrs. Stallings said she attended Mr. Perot's speech last Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington where he repeated his decision. The Texan told the Los Angeles Times that he was prepared to spend $50 million to $100 million "or whatever it takes" to finance his campaign.
Mr. Perot has been a frequent critic of the Bush administration.
Mr. Kudzal, of Waldorf, said he had been "close to" supporting former Democratic Sen. Paul E. Tsongas of Massachusetts, who has withdrawn from the race. He said he did not support any of the other declared candidates.
"Then I saw Mr. Perot's speech on C-Span Wednesday, and I was really impressed. Mr. Perot gave answers that made sense," Mr. Kudzal said.
In that speech, Mr. Perot urged drastic action to reduce the federal deficit, to re-establish U.S. international competitiveness and to overhaul the educational system.