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Nader's Mich. Ballot Hopes May Rest With GOP

Ralph Nader (search) may have to rely on Republicans to get on Michigan's presidential ballot after all.

The independent candidate had planned to get on Michigan's ballot through the national Reform Party (search), which has endorsed his candidacy.

But Republican Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land says she can't accept his nomination to the state ballot because of a dispute over who heads the Reform Party in Michigan. That could have Nader turning to signatures collected by Republicans to get on the November ballot here.

Both John Muntz of Wyandotte and Matthew Crehan of Muskegon claim to be the chairman of the Reform Party of Michigan. Muntz and Eleanor Renfrew, who says she's the party secretary, sent a certification of nomination for Nader to the state Bureau of Elections in late June, after Nader won the national Reform Party endorsement.

Crehan on Wednesday called that certification "absolute pure, unequivocal fraud" and said Muntz and Renfrew have no standing to nominate Nader because they are officers of the Independence Party of Michigan.

That group is affiliated with the Reform Party USA, but doesn't represent the Reform Party of Michigan, according to Crehan, who was elected chairman of the state Reform Party in February 2003, succeeding Mark Forton.

The Reform Party of Michigan will nominate a candidate at its July 24 state convention in Lansing, but Crehan said he can't guarantee Nader will be the nominee because the candidate has turned down an invitation to meet with state Reform Party members.

"We're in agreement with him 100 percent as far as his feelings on the war in Iraq. He's against GATT and NAFTA, and so are we," Crehan said, referring to two international trade agreements. "We don't like all this outsourcing going on.

"But there's some other issues where, frankly, we don't know where he stands."

Muntz did not return phone calls seeking comment. Nader spokesman Kevin Zeese also didn't return phone calls.

Crehan said he has not heard from the Nader campaign, which he thinks may be under the mistaken impression it can get on the Michigan ballot through the national Reform Party without being nominated by the state party.

In her letter, Land urged the two factions to resolve their differences and come up with an official chairperson and secretary of the state Reform Party who could file the nomination certificate.

Crehan doesn't expect the two factions to work things out, and said his group is putting affidavits together to prove to Land he's the real party chairman. Nader has until Sept. 3 to be placed on the Michigan ballot by a political party that has earned ballot access, such as the Reform Party.

If Nader fails to get nominated for the ballot by the state Reform Party, he still could get on the ballot by turning in 30,000 petition signatures and an affidavit saying he's running to the Bureau of Elections by 4 p.m. Thursday.

State GOP Executive Director Greg McNeilly last week sent an e-mail to GOP activists urging them to help get Nader on the ballot and said "it is my fervent hope" that Nader's presence will draw votes away from Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.

Michigan Democrats, meanwhile, sent a letter to Nader last week asking him to refuse any petition signatures collected by Republicans. A national group, TheNaderFactor.com, began running radio ads Tuesday in several cities nationally, including Lansing, pointing out that Republicans are helping Nader and asking him to "declare your independence from the right-wing extremists."