Kucinich on Top for New York Primary

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Rep. Dennis Kucinich (search), who barely shows up in the polls against his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, has won the top ballot spot for New York's March 2 primary, officials said Monday.

While the congressman from Ohio's name will lead the ballot, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections said it probably doesn't matter too much where a candidate's name is positioned in a primary election.

"People going in there are looking for their person," explained the board's Lee Daghlian. "The vote total is pretty low (for primaries), so I don't think it has as much effect, if any, like you might have in a general election."

Daghlian said the order was determined in a blind draw held by the board last week in which representatives of each campaign, or board employees filling in for them, selected ballot positions.

The order for the New York primary will be: Kucinich, Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, perennial candidate Lyndon LaRouche (search), former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, civil rights activist Al Sharpton of New York, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri and former Gen. Wesley Clark of Arkansas.

A Jan. 13 poll from Marist College's Institute for Public Opinion had Dean well ahead of his rivals in New York, but that survey was conducted before his third-place finish in Iowa.

The Dean and Kerry camps said it didn't matter what the ballot order was in New York.

"In more local and less publicized races, ballot position means a lot, but in a race this big, I think voters know who they're going to go vote for," said Dean's New York campaign spokesman, Eric Schmeltzer.

"New Yorkers will find John Kerry wherever he is on the ballot," said Kerry's New York campaign director, Paul Rivera.

Gephardt formally ended his campaign after finishing fourth in the Iowa caucuses on Jan. 19, but missed an early January deadline for taking his name off the New York primary ballot.

There is no Republican presidential primary in New York this year because President Bush is unopposed in the state.

On Monday, the state Board of Elections was also certifying each candidate's delegate slates in individual congressional districts. Only Dean and Edwards had filed petitions seeking delegate slates in each district.

Some of the candidates, including Kerry, filed delegate slate petitions that did not contain the required number of signatures from party members. The state board, however, noting the other campaigns hadn't formally challenge those petitions, allowed the slates to stay on the ballot.

All the Democratic candidates filed individual petitions to get their own names on the statewide primary ballot. Those individual petitions required the signatures of at least 5,000 party members.

In New York's Democratic primary, there are two votes — one for the candidate to determine how many national convention delegates, if any, they will win in each congressional districts and then a second vote for actual delegates. Not having delegate slates on the ballot doesn't mean much, however, because if a candidate is entitled to delegates in a district where he has no slate on the ballot, the state party appoints delegates pledged to that candidate for the first ballot at the national convention.