Supporters of former presidential hopeful H. Ross Perot have no intention of backing Gov. William Donald Schaefer's request yesterday to remove the Texas billionaire's name from Maryland's presidential ballot, a spokesman for the Maryland Perot election committee said today.
"These are shifting times," said Richard Stallings, whose wife, Joan Vinson, is state coordinator. "But we wouldn't do that in any event. We wore ourselves out to get his name on the ballot."
Certification of Mr. Perot's petitions is almost complete and his name will remain on the ballot in Maryland unless he asks for its removal by Aug. 25.
"This request [for removal] is made in the best interest of the voters of Maryland," Mr. Schaefer said in a letter to Mr. Perot that also was 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 in Maryland to get the Texas billionaire's name on the 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 remove his name from ballots only "if the people requested his name be taken off."
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."
About 300 Perot supporters in Maryland attended a two-hour meeting last night in Bethesda to discuss their next step.
"It's not about Ross Perot any more," Roger Byrnes, a backer who attended the meeting, said today.
"It's about taking control of our government which is not responsible to many Americans."
Mr. Byrnes collected more than 1,000 signatures to get Mr. Perot's name on the ballot.
He said he thought the governor's request was an attempt to bolster support for the Clinton-Gore ticket.
"It's none of Mr. Schaefer's business anyway," Mr. Byrnes said. "It's simply a Democratic reaction. And this is a government of the people, not of the Democratic Party."
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.