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Friday, July 02, 2004

Nader off state ballot, immigration battle heats up - 2004-07-02 - The Business Journal of Phoenix

Nader off state ballot, immigration battle heats up - 2004-07-02 - The Business Journal of Phoenix
2:42 PM MST Friday
Nader off state ballot, immigration battle heats up
Mike Sunnucks
The Business Journal
Independent, left-wing presidential candidate Ralph Nader is off the Arizona election ballot, handing a big win to Democrats and John Kerry's efforts to win the state in November.

The Nader campaign on Friday withdrew its bid to get on the November ballot in the state after finding itself short of the necessary valid petition signatures. It also was dissuaded by the legal resources to combat a Democratic lawsuit challenging those petitions and election paperwork filed by the independent.

Democrats filed suit last month in Maricopa County Superior Court challenging Nader's signatures and election paperwork.

On Friday, Nader officials announced their withdrawal and a Phoenix judge then ordered them off the November list of candidates.

Democrats, including state party chairman Jim Pederson, do not want Nader on presidential ballots in swing states such as Arizona fearing he will siphon off liberal, anti-free trade, anti-war voters from Kerry to the advantage of President Bush.

"Every candidate -- Democrat, Republican or Independent -- must follow the law in order to run for office," said Pederson, who also is a top Valley real estate developer, in a statement. "After realizing his operatives had failed to follow the necessary procedures or collect the requisite signatures, Mr. Nader had no other choice but to withdraw his bid to be placed on the Arizona ballot."

Republicans were happy to see Nader on the Arizona ballot but still are confident they will carry the state this fall.

"It's unfortunate that Democrats are so afraid of their weak candidate that they must support litigation to limit voter's choices," Arizona Republican Party spokesman Colin McCracken said.

Bush carried Arizona in 2000 by six points over Al Gore. Nader, who was running as the Green Party candidate, got 3 percent in the state in 2000.

A poll this week by Arizona State University showed Bush with a 12 point lead over Kerry.

On another front that could influence the presidential race, proponents of a controversial illegal immigration referendum have gathered more than enough petition signatures to get the "Protect Arizona Now" initiative on the November ballot.

The question is whether there will be enough signatures deemed valid by Secretary of State Jan Brewer and whether they will survive any legal challenges by opponents. If PAN makes the ballot in November, it is expected to boost conservative, anti-illegal immigration turnout which would help Bush.

PAN Executive Director Kathy McKee said a total 190,877 petition signatures were turned in on Thursday. The referendum needs 122,612 valid signatures to get on the November ballot.

PAN's petition efforts come despite major in-fighting between McKee and other referendum backers including Valley car dealer Rusty Childress and the Washington, D.C.-based Federation for American Immigration Reform.

PAN hopes to reduce illegal immigration into the state by requiring prospective voters and those seeking state welfare benefits to prove they are U.S. citizens. It also would require state agencies to report illegal immigrants to federal authorities.

Most of the state's business and political establishment oppose PAN, arguing border and immigration issues are federal matters. Opponents includes all of the state's Republican-heavy congressional delegation, Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano and business interests such as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Hispanic groups also oppose PAN, contending it is anti-Mexican.

PAN backers include Republican state legislators Sens. Robert Blendu, Jim Weiers and Marilyn Jarrett as well as House Majority Leader Eddie Farnsworth and House Majority Whip Randy Graf.

Graf is challenging incumbent Tucson Congressman Jim Kolbe, a PAN critic, in the September GOP primary.

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