By andrei Blakely
ANNAPOLIS – Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan is focusing on grassroots campaigning as a way to gather Maryland supporters, after being left out of the national presidential debates this election season.
Buchanan, a former television commentator and presidential speechwriter, is scheduled to appear on the 5 p.m. news today on Baltimore’s WMAR-TV, Channel 2. His campaign is also considering other Maryland appearances, said Robert Bowes, chairman of the Maryland Reform Party. In addition, Marylanders may see Buchanan advertising soon, as part of a national strategy to buy local television time, he said.
In Maryland, Buchanan is looking to appeal to pro-life voters who believe Republican nominee George W. Bush hasn’t taken a strong enough stand against abortion and anti-immigration voters who are against urban sprawl and dwindling jobs in select fields.
Bowes is scheduled to participate in a debate with members of the Democratic and Republican parties on Oct. 22, he said.
The Reform Party was just certified as a political party in Maryland on Aug. 23, putting Buchanan on the state’s November election ballot.
Campaign planners are excited about the prospect of gaining new supporters.
“It is open season again,” said Bowes, who served as Buchanan’s treasurer during his 1996 presidential campaign and followed the candidate to the Reform Party last year.
The Maryland Reform Party has raised more than $80,000 for Buchanan through mailings and stops at public places, including county fairs and Metro stops. Those funds are part of the total $24 million the Buchanan campaign has raised for the election – $12.6 million of that is in federal matching funds.
There are 2,000 people registered in the Maryland Reform Party, which has only been open for membership in the state since August 23.
Voters of any political persuasion have until Oct. 13 to register to vote to participate in the presidential election.
The Reform Party is looking to compete in registration with the Libertarian Party’s 3,180 registered members. There are 1,485,739 registered Democrats and 782,621 Republicans registered in Maryland.
The State Board of Elections expects more accurate voter figures to be out in two weeks, said Donna Duncan, elections board spokesman.
The Reform Party, based in Vienna, Va., is looking to campaign in states along the East Coast and New England that have become disenchanted with the Republican Party.
“There is no Conservative Party left in Washington, D.C.,” said Buchanan during an Oct. 1 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” with Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader. The show was billed as an alternative debate for the two third-party candidates excluded from the national presidential debates that began Tuesday.
“We got two parties very close together funded by the same special interests, the same corporate powers,” he said.
Buchanan won five primaries as a Republican during his presidential bid in 1996. Ross Perot, the Reform Party’s presidential candidate that year placed third to President Bill Clinton and Republican nominee former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas.