ANNAPOLIS -- With sailboats and the glimmering expanse of Chesapeake Bay behind them, about 100 supporters of might-be presidential candidate Ross Perot opened their state headquarters at Horn Point Harbor last night.
Supporters from around Maryland gathered on the lush green lawn outside the waterfront office, which was donated to the Perot effort by Horn Point developer Bennett Crain.
Mr. Perot, a billionaire from Texas, says he will run for president as an independent candidate if he gets on the ballot in 50 states.
The nearby yacht and bevy of boats evoked images of wealth and privilege, in contrast with the down-home, grass-roots petition drive that Mr. Perot's supporters are trying to run.
Three weeks into their campaign, his Maryland supporters have collected more than 20,000 of the 63,169 signatures needed by August to place Mr. Perot's name on the ballot in Maryland.
Mr. Perot has attracted many supporters who say they're fed up with Democrats and Republicans alike these days.
One supporter in attendance yesterday was retired Rear Adm. Robert Geiger, who, like Mr. Perot, graduated from the nearby Naval Academy.
Like many Navy professionals, he said, he didn't interest himself in politics before retiring.
"The political world is alien to us," he said.
But he's worried about the world his grandchildren will inherit, he said, so he took a hard look at Mr. Perot.
He thinks Mr. Perot has solutions to the federal deficit, although he acknowledges that he hasn't heard the billionaire discuss his ideas in detail yet.
"The refreshing thing is he's identified the problem," Admiral Geiger said.
He said he's content to wait for Mr. Perot's platform to develop. "I'm only concerned with getting him on the ballot," he said. "At least he'll rattle the cage if we get him on the ballot."
Another supporter, J. D. Urbach II of Dundalk, turned out to announce that he would be forming a new pro-Perot group -- Teens for Perot.
Mr. Urbach, an Eagle Scout and a junior at Dundalk High School, isn't old enough to vote, but he believes that people his age should be interested in Mr. Perot's potential candidacy.
"He's kind of looking toward tomorrow, when we'll be older," he said.
Although he identifies largely with the Republican Party, Mr. Urbach said he is unimpressed with President Bush.
"It's four years after he was elected, and I'm not sure where the country's heading and what good he has done," the 17-year-old said.
Older supporters yesterday said they had not found a candidate they liked as much as Mr. Perot since Harry S. Truman.
"I'm usually not political, but I'm madder than hell and I'm not going to take it anymore," said businessman Hal Kass.
Ditto for Mike Conti, a former shipmate of then-Ensign Perot aboard the USS Sigourney. Echoing the reference to President Truman, he said: "Give 'em hell, Mr. Perot."