Denial of ballot spot to presidential hopeful Kaufman draws ACLU criticism


WASHINGTON -- The American Civil Liberties Union was considering a court battle on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate and Baltimore socialist A. Robert Kaufman yesterday after he was denied a spot on the Maryland primary ballot.

The possible legal challenge comes in the wake of a decision by Secretary of State Winfield M. Kelly Jr. not to place Mr. Kaufman, a two-time U.S. Senate candidate, on the March 3 primary ballot.

"Mr. Kaufman will not be on the ballot," explained the assistant secretary of state, Vonzell R. Ward, "because the secretary has determined that Mr. Kaufman's candidacy has not been recognized by the media in Maryland or the United States."

The secretary is given wide discretion to determine which candidates have generated enough media attention to be added to the list of primary candidates, Mr. Ward said. Mr. Kelly was unavailable for comment.

"It's ridiculous that you keep someone like [Mr. Kaufman] off the ballot," said Stuart Comstock-Gay, director of the ACLU of Maryland. "Democracy says let the people decide."

Mr. Comstock-Gay said he would consult with the ACLU's advisory board to determine whether to seek a court injunction.

Yesterday was the deadline for Mr. Kelly to tell the state administrator of election laws which Democrats would be on the ballot. Mr. Kelly determined that six Democrats had earned a spot: former California Gov. Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin, Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, and former Massachusetts Sen. Paul E. Tsongas.

Two Republican candidates, President Bush and syndicated columnist Patrick Buchanan, will appear on the March 3 ballot.

Yesterday also was the deadline for U.S. House and Senate candidates to have their names withdrawn from the ballot. Three candidates did so: Ellen Moyer, a Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District; Lee Breuer, a GOP candidate in the 4th Congressional District; and Democratic Senate candidate Michael Boyle.

Mr. Kaufman disputed the claim that his candidacy has not produced media interest, pointing to stories about his campaign that have appeared in The Sun, The Evening Sun and the Baltimore Times, as well as local radio and TV reports. "I'd say it's pretty damn impressive for two weeks of organizing," said Mr. Kaufman.

"The secretary has obviously determined that the press coverage was not sufficient enough to place Mr. Kaufman on the ballot," Mr. Ward said, noting that some 30 to 35 other candidates also were denied positions on the ballot. Mr. Ward said that Mr. Kaufman can still earn a spot on the state primary ballot by collecting 400 signatures from registered voters in each of the eight Maryland congressional districts by Jan. 9.

However, Mr. Kaufman said there was too little time to collect signatures and he looked forward to a court challenge.

Even without a ballot spot, the 61-year-old civil rights activist, who failed in his Senate campaigns in 1986 and 1988, pledged to continue his presidential campaign.

Mr. Kaufman kicked off this effort Dec. 13 primarily as an opponent of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who is seeking the GOP presidential nomination through a racially charged campaign that includes attacks on the welfare system.

Even though Mr. Duke has decided not to run in Maryland, Mr. Kaufman said, "his solutions are still going to be reported throughout the state."

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