ANNAPOLIS – If regional Reform Party members want their organization to remain a viable alternative to the Democratic and Republican Parties, their candidate, Ross Perot, needs to get at least 3 percent of Maryland’s vote and 7,500 votes in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 5.
If this happens, the Maryland Reform Party will be able to run candidates in a primary election and will not have to petition for ballot status in general elections.
In the district, meanwhile, the party would be listed as a choice on voter registration forms and could run a candidate in a primary. But it still would need to petition to run candidates both in the primary and general elections.
And so Reform Party activists are making grassroots efforts to reach out to the electorate that last time around gave Perot 14 percent of Maryland’s almost 2 million votes and 9,681 of Washington’s 227,572 votes.
“Our main goal is to meet federal and state guidelines to have the organization in place, and to get enough people out…to get him 3 percent of the vote. We’re trying to get the organization strong enough to get him more than 3 percent of the vote,” said Cynthia Snider of Beltsville. Snider is treasurer of the Maryland Reform Party and serves on the party’s State Central Committee.
Volunteers in the district are attempting to introduce voters to the candidates and their positions, said Donna Waks, D.C. treasurer.
“We are Americans extremely concerned about America going down the tubes,” Waks said. “This is about a movement that’s bringing together people who don’t want to hear the Bob and Bill show anymore.”
The party has been sponsoring tables at street fairs to distribute campaign information and talk with voters. The George Washington University has offered a speaking engagement to Perot’s running mate, economist Pat Choate, for later this month.
“We’ve got to hunker down and deal with the economy and level the playing field in this country so it’s not big corporate money that gets to decide how the country’s going to be run, including who gets to participate in the debates,” said Waks, who has been a third party activist for 13 years.
Organizers in the party’s regional headquarters in Annapolis say they have no hard numbers on their progress. They don’t count the phone calls they receive each day. And since voter registration forms don’t yet list the Reform Party as an option, they have no idea of their membership.
But they do boast a database of almost 2,000 callers who have asked for campaign information, said Anne Parker, an Annapolis volunteer. And answering requests for information costs the Maryland Reform Party about $40 per day in postal expenses, she added.
With help from a rotation of nine volunteers in the Annapolis office, Perot’s regional coordinator Joan Vinson is trying to spread the Perot-Choate message across the state and district.
Vinson, who lives in Annapolis, said the party plans to run a telephone bank from the homes of party members throughout Maryland.
The Maryland Reform Party also has sent questionnaires to the state’s Democratic and Republican congressional candidates, so it can decide whether to endorse them. The party will announce any endorsements after October 19, said Gaithersburg resident Patricia Cummings, the party’s chairwoman.
“We wanted to have people in Congress who stand for our principles and will pledge to vote in the best interest of our country,” Cummings said.
Snider said the party wants to educate people about the issues on which Perot and Choate are campaigning, such as balancing the federal budget and changing foreign lobbying practices.
“I have all the faith in the world in Perot,” Snider said. “We’re getting calls every day from people who want to join him…from people who are so disaffected with government.”
Even so, party members say it is difficult to get out their message because they aren’t receiving much media coverage of their efforts.
“It’s going to be impossible to get any votes unless we can get access to the public. And the major networks won’t cover us unless they can say something nasty about us,” Cummings complained. “The media is killing us,” she said. “What we want is fair media coverage. I’m tired of what is basically a propaganda campaign by our political adversaries cheerfully promulgated by what is supposed to be an objective press.” -30-