Presidential candidate Ralph Nader (search) on Monday tapped longtime Green Party activist Peter Camejo (search) to be his running mate, a move certain to boost the independent's chances of winning the Green Party's (search) endorsement this week and its access to ballot lines in nearly two dozen states.

"He is a man who has put his principles in practice, who has fought the struggles of the civil rights movement, the labor rights movement in the '60s and '70s," Nader said as he introduced Camejo at a news conference.

An investment adviser from Folsom, Calif., Camejo had been one of two leading contenders for the Green Party's presidential nomination this year. But he is little-known outside California, where he received about 3 percent of the vote as the Green Party's candidate for California governor during the 2003 recall drive that led to the ouster of Democrat Gray Davis and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"I'm a member of the Green Party, I'm very proud of being a Green," Camejo said. "But I am so happy to join with Ralph Nader in the broader coalition he is trying to build to present an alternative for this election that stands on principles of social justice, peace in the world and equality."

The announcement came before the Green Party convention beginning Wednesday in Milwaukee. Nader, who ran as a Green candidate in 1996 and 2000, is not seeking the party's nomination, but he has actively pursued an endorsement from the third party.

One Green Party leader said a Nader-Camejo ticket would have a strong chance of winning the party's backing.

"This is an opportunity for Nader to make an overture to the party membership," said Ben Manski, one of five co-chairs of the Green Party. "I think it certainly would put him much more in the running but not a guarantee."

The Green Party has ballot access for a presidential candidate in Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C.

Nader also has been endorsed by the national Reform Party (search), which gives him access to the ballot in at least seven states, including the battlegrounds of Florida and Michigan. The consumer advocate garnered nearly 3 percent of the vote in 2000, when he was viewed by many as having cost Democrat Al Gore the White House by taking votes in the deciding state of Florida.

This time, Nader contends he will attract more votes from conservatives disaffected with President Bush (search) than from Democrats who support John Kerry (search).

"Does Nader believes that a lifelong activist of the left is going to pull disaffected votes from conservatives?" John Pearce, founder of DontVoteRalph (search), an organization that discourages liberal voters from backing Nader, said of Camejo.

But Camejo, 64, launched a spirited defense of Nader's decision to run for president despite critics who label him a spoiler. "They don't realize what they are saying," Camejo said. "It's not Ralph Nader's rights they're going to deny, it's the voters. The voters will decide who they want for president."

Nader was polling about 6 percent nationally, according to a recent Associated Press poll conducted by Ipsos-Public Affairs. The consumer advocate has raised just under $1 million and spent nearly all of it, starting June with about $73,000 in the bank and just under $25,000 in debts, according to the latest reports filed with the Federal Election Commission (search).

Camejo said he will recommend that the Green Party decline to nominate any single candidate and instead endorse both Nader and David Cobb, the other leading Green candidate. Party members in each state would then decide who to place on the ballot.

As a gubernatorial candidate in California, Camejo supported abortion rights (search), gun licensing, universal health care and a moratorium on the death penalty. Camejo also ran for president as the Socialist Workers Party (search) nominee in 1976.