Nader campaign again fails to get candidate on ballot

With a bitter blast at the Democratic Party, Ralph Nader’s organizers in Oregon acknowledged Thursday that their recent convention failed to attract enough supporters to put their candidate on the state presidential ballot.

Instead, Portland attorney Greg Kafoury said, the Nader campaign has now hired paid canvassers to conduct a petition drive that has about a month to collect 15,306 signatures from registered voters.

Kafoury and his law partner, Mark McDougal, charged that the Oregon Democratic Party was engaged in “dirty tricks” and had “sabotaged” the Nader campaign’s effort to qualify for the ballot at a convention held June 26 at Portland’s Benson High School.

State Democratic Chairman Jim Edmunson denied the charges and said he thought Nader’s real problem was a drop in support for him.

“The bulk of voters realize this election is too important to waste a vote on Ralph Nader,” Edmunson said.

Nader, who was on the ballot in 43 states as the Green Party presidential candidate in 2000, has had a more difficult time qualifying as an independent this year. He has gotten help from some supporters of President Bush who think Nader will take votes from Democrat Sen. John Kerry, but he’s also faced legal action and scrutiny from Democrats in other states.

In Oregon, Nader has twice failed to attract the 1,000 registered voters to a convention, which is one method of qualifying for the ballot. At the Benson High event, Kafoury said, there were about 1,150 people in the room, but it only produced 950 signatures from registered voters.

Kafoury charged that the Democratic Party stacked the room with at least 150 volunteers who purposely didn’t sign the petition for Nader. And he also said Democrats swamped Kafoury’s phone lines the day before the convention to hinder the effort to get Nader supporters to attend.

“The dirty tricks of the Democratic Party have succeeded,” Kafoury said. “We were sabotaged.”

A volunteer official with the Multnomah County Democratic Party, Moses Ross, did send out an e-mail a few hours before the event urging Democrats to attend and not sign the petition.

But Neel Pender, the state Democratic Party’s executive director, said Ross was acting on his own and that the state party “disavowed” his efforts. Pender said there was also no organized effort to jam the Nader phone lines, although he said he wouldn’t be surprised if many Democrats decided on their own to call Kafoury and complain about Nader’s campaign.

Pender noted that there were plenty of additional seats at the Benson High auditorium and that Nader received help from two groups supportive of Republicans — Citizens for a Sound Economy and the Oregon Family Council — who called members and encouraged them to attend the event. Both conservative groups said it would help Bush if Nader were on the ballot.

Kafoury said about 25 percent of the signatures gathered at the event were signed by Republicans, which he said was consistent with polls showing that Nader draws about one-quarter of his support from the GOP.

McDougal, Kafoury’s law partner, said the Nader campaign does not want Republican groups helping on the new petition drive, although he said the Nader campaign wouldn’t necessarily reject signatures gathered by Republicans.

The Nader campaign must have its signatures verified by county elections officials and turned into the secretary of state by Aug. 24. As a result, Kafoury said the goal of the petition drive is to gather at least 25,000 signatures by Aug. 16.

Jeff Mapes: 503-221-8209;

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