Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader conceded Friday 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, following 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 F. 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 Friday, acknowledged that it had fallen about 550 valid 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 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 has alleged that Democrats attempted to infiltrate and stymie a meeting the independent convened last weekend to try to advance his ballot drive. To such charges, Democrats reply that conservative groups have been helping Nader.
At a Washington news conference, Nader said the Democratic Party 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 independent, now in his fourth run for the White House, said he had called the Kerry camp to discuss his concerns.
The Kerry campaign brushed off the comments, saying 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.
Nader’s stumble in Arizona followed other recent blows to his drive to qualify for presidential ballots. Last Saturday, the Green Party rejected his bid for an endorsement that could have helped him get on the ballot in at least 22 states and the District of Columbia.
The Greens’ decision stung Nader because he had been the party’s presidential nominee in 1996 and 2000. Also, his vice presidential running mate this year, Peter Camejo of California, is a prominent Green.
So far, Nader has not qualified independently for any state ballot. But he has been endorsed by the Reform Party, founded by Texas businessman H. Ross Perot during his 1996 campaign for president. That gives Nader access to ballots in up to seven states, including Michigan, Colorado and Florida. However, Florida Democrats say they are exploring ways to block him.
Nader took 97,000 votes in Florida in 2000, running to the left of Democratic nominee Al Gore. Had Gore captured just 1% of those votes, he would have surpassed Bush’s 537-vote margin in the state and won the presidency.
In Arizona, Nader took 3% of the vote in 2000, as Bush beat Gore by about 6 percentage points.
Bush has led Kerry in recent Arizona polls, but Democrats see a potential pickup. President Clinton carried it in 1996 en route to his reelection.