Nader fails to qualify for presidential ballot in Arizona, complains of `dirty tricks'

Election 2004

July 03, 2004|By Nick Anderson | Nick Anderson,LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON - Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader conceded yesterday that he would not qualify for the Arizona ballot and complained of "dirty tricks" by Democrats aimed at thwarting his campaign.

Arizona is the second state, after Indiana, where Nader has failed to make the ballot. But the Arizona setback is more politically significant because the state is much more competitive in the presidential race.

President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, the presumed Democratic nominee, have spent at least $3 million each on television commercials in the Phoenix and Tucson markets in quest of the state's 10 electoral votes.

Democrats, fearing that most of Nader's support would come at Kerry's expense, filed a lawsuit last month seeking to invalidate the consumer advocate's Arizona ballot petition. An examination of more than 22,000 signatures that Nader submitted to state authorities found that thousands were invalid.

The Nader campaign, in a statement yesterday, acknowledged that it had fallen about 550 signatures short of the 14,694 required to qualify. The campaign withdrew its petition, and a state judge ordered Nader's name be kept off the ballot.

The Nader campaign's statement lashed out at "deep-pocket Democrats" and law firms they hired to challenge his Arizona petition.

Similar ballot-access battles are unfolding in Oregon, Illinois and Florida - all pitting local Democrats against Nader organizers.

In Oregon, the Nader campaign alleged that Democrats sought to infiltrate and stymie a meeting the independent convened last weekend to try to advance his ballot drive. Unapologetic Democrats reply that conservative groups have been helping Nader.

At a Washington news conference, Nader said the Democrats had "stepped up its obstruction tendencies" in trying to derail his candidacy. "We have to get a clarification if they're going to engage in dirty tricks," he said.

The Kerry campaign brushed off the comments, saying that all candidates were bound by state election laws.

"These are rules that have been on the books for years, and they ought to be followed," said Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton.

The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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