IRVING – It was an unlikely party meeting in an unlikely place.
The National Reform Party, an anti-immigration protectionist party founded by Dallas billionaire Ross Perot, endorsed left-leaning independent Ralph Nader as its presidential nominee at a national meeting in Irving on Friday.
Mr. Nader accepted the endorsement in a speech attended by about 75 members Saturday, even though he’s not on the ballot in Texas and is not completely aligned ideologically with Reformers.
“No one’s ever going to agree with everybody,” Mr. Nader said. “You don’t always agree on politics with your own family.”
Mr. Nader did not meet Texas’ deadline to get on the November ballot, and he is challenging the state’s ballot-access laws in court.
“What the threshold needs to be is, if a person is a citizen, a taxpayer and a registered voter, they should be allowed to run for president,” said Shawn O’Hara, the Reform Party’s national chairman.
Mr. O’Hara said the consumer advocate is now on the ballot in seven states, including battlegrounds Florida and Michigan.
Many Democrats blame Mr. Nader for pulling votes from Democrat Al Gore in 2000. Mr. Gore lost Florida – and the presidency – to Republican George W. Bush by 537 votes. Mr. Nader garnered 97,488 votes there as the Green Party’s nominee.
“Most of the votes would have gone to Gore,” said Texas state Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas.
Mr. West and state Rep. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, stood outside the hotel where Saturday’s meeting was held and asked that Mr. Nader disassociate himself from the Reformers.
The men criticized what they called Mr. O’Hara’s ties to the Ku Klux Klan. In the late 1990s, Mr. O’Hara aided the legal defense of former Klan Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers, who was convicted of the 1966 firebombing death of voting rights advocate Vernon Dahmer.
Mr. O’Hara, who is not a lawyer, said he had originally tried to assist in Mr. Bowers’ conviction but switched sides because he thought there was not enough evidence showing his guilt.
Mr. Nader has engaged in an uphill battle to get on the ballot in all 50 states. In Texas, a candidate not affiliated with a political party has about two months to get 64,076 signatures – representing 1 percent of those who voted in the last presidential election – to qualify for the ballot. The collection period ended May 10.
Third-party candidates had to collect 45,540 signatures by May 24. Libertarian Party candidate Michael Badnarik of Austin is the only third-party contender who made it on the ballot.
Mr. Nader was on 43 ballots in 2000 as the Green Party nominee. This year, Houston native David Cobb became the Green Party’s 2004 presidential nominee.
Mr. Nader has received support from Republicans in his ballot bids. A Republican operative with ties to the Bush family and Republican Gov. Rick Perry has helped collect signatures to put Mr. Nader on New Hampshire’s ballot. 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.
Conservative groups, such as the anti-tax Citizens for a Sound Economy, have helped gather signatures in Oregon, Nevada, Michigan and Iowa.
Last month, Mr. Nader’s campaign paid $75,000 to a conservative political consulting firm that specializes in gathering signatures for ballot petitions.
Mr. Nader first won the Reform Party’s nomination in May when Reformers nominated him during a conference call. But Florida requires a party to have a national convention to get its candidate on the ballot. Mr. O’Hara said this weekend’s four-day meeting served to meet that requirement.