WASHINGTON – Independent candidate Ralph Nader (search), denied a spot on the Arizona ballot, on Friday accused the Democrats and presidential candidate John Kerry (search) of engaging in political "dirty tricks."
Just hours before the developments in Arizona, Nader complained that the Democratic Party has "stepped up its obstruction tendencies" in challenging his ballot access. The consumer advocate said he had called the Kerry campaign three times Thursday, asking to chat with the candidate.
"We have to get a clarification if they're going to engage in dirty tricks," Nader told reporters at a news conference to criticize multinational corporations.
The Kerry campaign dismissed Nader's complaints, arguing that Democrats were following the rules when they legally challenged Nader's signatures to get on the ballot. "These are rules that have been on the books for years and they ought to be followed," said Chad Clanton, who added that the Massachusetts senator would be happy to talk to Nader.
In Arizona, supporters of Nader abandoned their effort to get the independent candidate on the presidential ballot after Democrats challenged the validity of thousands of signatures.
Nader's campaign had submitted more than 22,000 signatures to Arizona election officials June 9 — far more than the 14,694 valid signatures required by state law to compete against President Bush and Kerry.
Two Democratic voters had filed a lawsuit last week, backed by the Arizona Democratic Party, questioning the validity of Nader's nominating petitions and other documents. The Democrats argued that more than 70 percent of the signatures were invalid.
As a Maricopa County Superior Court judge prepared to hear arguments in the case, Nader campaign attorney Richard Mahrle conceded there were "technical errors" in the ballot petition and said Nader would not contest the lawsuit.
Judge Mark Armstrong then issued an order that Nader be kept off the state ballot.
Nader told reporters that he expects to get on about as many state ballots as he did in 2000 when his name was listed in 43 states and the District of Columbia. So far, he has not gotten on any ballot independently. Nader acknowledged that complex state laws on ballot access could result in additional challenges.
"These statutes are so complex the secretary of states often don't know what they mean, so they are inviting targets for litigation," Nader said. "Democrats have an endless amount of money to throw against our efforts to get on the ballot."
Nader and Kerry met in May, with the two offering compliments following the session. Whatever truce existed was clearly gone on Friday as Nader campaign spokesman Kevin Zeese warned Democrats about future ballot challenges.
"John Kerry may be making an enemy of Ralph Nader if he doesn't stop the harassment," Zeese said. "We've been focusing our criticism on Bush rather than Kerry, but Kerry has a pretty lousy record himself."
Democratic National Committee spokesman Jano Cabrera said Friday that the national party supports efforts by state parties to validate Nader signatures, but it is not providing resources to help state parties in that effort.
"We feel that no matter how small a percentage of the vote he is drawing, he is drawing that support from John Kerry. A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush," Cabrera said.
Many Democrats blame Nader, the Green Party candidate four years ago, for taking votes from Democrat Al Gore and helping ensure President Bush's election.
Nader has struggled in some states to collect the thousands of signatures necessary to appear on the ballot as an independent candidate. He suffered a setback last week when the Green Party, which has ballot lines in 22 states and the District of Columbia, declined to endorse him.
Nader has been endorsed by the Reform Party, which has ballot lines in at least seven states.