Friday, September 17, 2004

Minor parties, major ambition


Little-known presidential candidates hope to affect tight race

By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Like a lot of folks in Greater Cincinnati, Mike Martini of Colerain Township describes himself as a pro-gun, pro-life and pro-smaller government conservative. So his presidential choice, he says, is clear.

Michael Peroutka.

Who?

Peroutka, a Maryland lawyer, is the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party. He'll appear on presidential ballots Nov. 2 in Ohio and Kentucky.

So will Michael Badnarik, a Texas computer consultant who is the presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party.

If Ralph Nader is a third-party candidate, call these guys fourth-party candidates.

Most pollsters don't even ask about Peroutka or Badnarik, though they usually include a question gauging Nader's support.

Independent Nader will appear on Kentucky's ballot, but Ohio officials still are verifying whether his supporters submitted enough signatures.

In the most recent poll of Ohio voters, the number of voters who volunteer Peroutka's or Badnarik's name didn't even round up to 1 percent, said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll.

Nonetheless, Badnarik and Peroutka's supporters say they could matter - especially because they tend to draw people from President Bush.

Peroutka's slogan is "God, Family, Republic." He calls for pulling troops out of Iraq, ending abortion, basing government on biblical principles and deporting all illegal aliens.

On his Web site, he pledges to "stand up against the entrenched socialists, elitists and globalists who currently have a stranglehold on American political power."

Like Peroutka, Libertarian Badnarik also supports pulling troops out of Iraq. He favors gay marriage, free trade and opening the borders to immigrants as long as they are not terrorists or criminals. His slogan: "Lighting the Fires of Liberty."

Martini, a former Republican and Bush voter in 2000, said he's disgusted with what he calls an unconstitutional war in Iraq, the growth of the federal government, Bush's support of the United Nations, and the Patriot Act, which gives the government broad authority to fight terrorism.

"I think Mr. Peroutka could have a huge impact in Ohio," said Martini, a 43-year-old engineer. "I think a lot of Ohioans are searching for a candidate that better reflects their views and positions on the issues but have no choice but to pick between the two evils known as Bush and Kerry."

Paul Green, a Northside computer specialist who chairs the Hamilton County Libertarian Party, said Badnarik will pick up Republicans angry over the Patriot Act and what he described as Bush's exorbitant spending.

"They just don't view President Bush's brand of Republicanism as conservative anymore," said Green, a self-described recovering Democrat who also worked for the campaign of state Rep. Tom Brinkman, a Mount Lookout Republican.

Badnarik will be in Ohio Sept. 22-24 and a 7 p.m. speech at Ohio State University on Sept. 23 will be included, according to his Web page. Peroutka's page shows no Ohio events, and a spokesman did not know Peroutka's schedule.

In the 2000 election in Ohio, the Constitution and Libertarian Party candidates received only 0.4 percent of the vote - combined.

All the third-party candidates together, a group that included the Reform Party's Pat Buchanan and the Green Party's Ralph Nader, managed to get 3.6 percent of the vote.

That was in a state Bush won by 3.5 percentage points.

Bush campaign spokesman Kevin Madden dismissed any effect, saying Bush's "decisive leadership" will appeal to Republicans, Democrats, independents and members of any other parties.

"Our message will resonate with all types of Ohio voters," he said.

But Susan Kay, a political science professor at Miami University, said if the election stays close, it's conceivable the minor-party candidates could flip the state.

But she said she couldn't predict whether Bush or Democrat John Kerry would suffer most.

Nader, Peroutka and Badnarik would affect only a few thousand votes at the edges, she said.

"But at the edges in a tight election - that could be really significant," Kay said.

E-mail cweiser@gannett.com

2000 results

How the minor-party presidential candidates did four years ago:

Ohio
Party Candidate Votes % of total
Green Ralph Nader 117,857 2.5%
Reform Pat Buchanan 26,724 0.6%
Libertarian Harry Browne 13,475 0.3%
Natural Law John Hagelin    6,169 0.1%
Constitution Howard Phillips  3,823 0.1%
Kentucky
Party Candidate Votes % of total
Green Ralph Nader 23,192 1.5%
Reform Pat Buchanan 4,173 0.3%
Libertarian Harry Browne 2,896 0.2%
Natural Law John Hagelin 1,533 0.1%
Constitution Howard Phillips 923 0.06%

Source: Ohio and Kentucky secretaries of state offices

Mike Peroutka: www.peroutka2004.com

Michael Badnarik: www.badnarik.org




ELECTION 2004
Minor parties, major ambition
Edwards attacks Bush's record on economy, Iraq

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