AUSTIN – A Republican operative with ties to the Bush family and Republican Gov. Rick Perry is helping collect signatures in New Hampshire to put independent candidate Ralph Nader on the November ballot.
Dave Carney hired more than two dozen temporary workers to gather signatures for Mr. Nader, saying he believes the effort will boost President Bush’s chances for re-election.
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“Democrats, under the leadership of John Kerry, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep Nader off the ballot,” said Mr. Carney, who was political director for the first President George Bush and is Mr. Perry’s chief political consultant.
“If the Kerry people don’t want Ralph Nader on the ballot,” he said, “Dave Carney wants Ralph Nader on the ballot.”
Democrats have warned that Mr. Nader could siphon votes from Mr. Kerry. Some analysts say the consumer advocate’s third-party candidacy in 2000 cost Al Gore the White House.
A spokesman for the Nader effort in New Hampshire said the campaign had not sought the help but wouldn’t reject the Republican-generated signatures.
Mr. Carney, who heads the New Hampshire-based firm Norway Hill, said Wednesday that he hired signature gatherers this month to work malls, fairs and other events. Some were paid $12 an hour and others were paid $1 per valid signature.
Nader forces in New Hampshire had a Wednesday deadline to submit 3,000 signatures to town clerks for verification for the Nov. 2 ballot.
The effort was one of several in which GOP-friendly groups have rallied to Mr. Nader’s aid. Conservative groups, such as the anti-tax Citizens for a Sound Economy, have helped gather signatures in Oregon, Nevada, Michigan and Iowa.
Democrats have gone to court in Pennsylvania to keep him off the ballot. Mr. Nader is contesting state ballot-access laws in Michigan, Illinois and Texas, where he failed to collect enough signatures to meet the May deadline.
The Dallas Morning News reported in April that nearly 10 percent of Mr. Nader’s large campaign contributors had a history of supporting the Republican president and the national party.
Mr. Nader denies that his candidacy would damage Mr. Kerry, predicting he would draw at least as many votes from Mr. Bush. Mr. Carney disagrees.
“I think it will help President Bush here in New Hampshire,” he said. “If there’s a disgruntled Republican out there who doesn’t like the president and their alternative is to vote for John Kerry, I’d rather have them vote for Ralph Nader.”
Mr. Carney said he was working at the request of a nonprofit group that supports ballot access, Choices for America, not the Bush-Cheney campaign. But Democrats questioned whether Mr. Carney was acting on instructions from the GOP ticket.
“We’re not supposed to think there’s any coordination going on among all these Republicans?” Democratic Party chairwoman Kathy Sullivan said.
Mr. Nader had hoped to qualify in more than the 43 states in which he ran as the Green Party nominee in 2000 but has faced obstacles meeting that goal. He is on the ballot in New Jersey and Nevada and is entitled to be listed as the Reform Party nominee in six other states.