Gov. William Donald Schaefer yesterday called on Ross Perot to remove his name from Maryland's presidential ballot "in fairness" to his volunteers and so that voters here can focus on the remaining candidates for president in November.
"This request is made in the best interest of the voters of Maryland," Mr. Schaefer said in a letter to Mr. Perot that was also signed by Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr.
Mr. Perot officially dropped out of the presidential race last Thursday. Politicians here couldn't agree yesterday on who would benefit if his name were removed from the ballot.
The governor's letter cites Maryland election law, which states that once a candidate collects enough signatures to get his name on the ballot, only the candidate can ask to be removed.
Mr. Schaefer praised the efforts of Mr. Perot's volunteers, who collected 140,000 signatures to get the Texas billionare's name on the Maryland ballot.
"Their hard work and enthusiasm will continue to be felt in not only this election, but well into the future," Mr. Schaefer wrote.
But the letter concluded, "In fairness to these dedicated volunteers and in keeping with the election laws of the state of Maryland, we feel that you should immediately request the removal of your name from the ballot."
Mr. Perot's spokeswoman in Dallas, Sharon Holman, said she was unaware of Mr. Schaefer's request. But she noted that Mr. Perot has insisted that he will only remove his name from ballots "if the people requested his name be taken off. The people are the ones who put it there."
Referring to the Maryland petitions, Ms. Holman said it "wouldn't be appropriate for one person," such as the governor or secretary of state, "to request his name come off when that many people signed."
Perot supporters in Maryland attended a meeting last night in Montgomery County to discuss their next step. Whether they would ask Mr. Perot to remove his name was not known.
"I seriously doubt they will continue to work for [Mr. Perot's] election," said Roger Byrnes, a supporter who collected more than 1,000 signatures in order to get Mr. Perot's name on the ballot.
"I believe most people want to continue and form some sort of independent association. I would only want to do it on a national level. I would request we stay together and continue on till 1994 in hopes of affecting some change, at the very least on a state level," Mr. Byrnes said.
But whatever happens, Mr. Byrnes said the Perot volunteers cannot afford to go back to politics as usual. "If we walk away from the movement today, we will never see another independent candidate in my lifetime," he said.
Mr. Schaefer is believed to be the first governor to ask Mr. Perot to remove his name from the ballot.
Mr. Schaefer has never been a Clinton fan. He showed up late at the Democratic National Convention and endorsed Mr. Clinton late and half-heartedly. On the other hand, although he's nominally Maryland's top Democrat, Mr. Schaefer has always expressed personal admiration for Mr. Bush.
Pamela J. Kelly, Mr. Schaefer's top political aide, said the letter was "more than housekeeping," but argued that there was no political agenda behind it.
"The governor thinks it's a matter of fairness and integrity," she said. "If he's not a candidate, then he ought to be fair to the people who worked really hard for him here and clear up this matter as soon as possible, so they know what they can or will do."
"The governor had some real concerns that the citizens were putting a lot of faith in this guy, and when it came time to deliver, that they would really crash. That was his real problem with Perot," Ms. Kelly said.