WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Texas-billionaire Ross Perot hinted yesterday that he will sue California over its election laws if his attempt to register a new party in time for the 1996 election cycle fails to meet an Oct. 24 deadline.
"Just when they realized that we were off to a rocket-thruster start, they changed the rules," Mr. Perot told reporters after a speech to a civic group here. "Like I say, mud wrestling has rules, politics does not."
Mr. Perot, who collected 19 percent of the popular vote as an independent presidential candidate in 1992, announced last month that he intended to create a new third party, called the Independence Party. He said he would sponsor a nationwide drive to get it on the ballots of all 50 states.
Mr. Perot said he would start the campaign in California because its Oct. 24 deadline for ballot placement was the nation's earliest. California law enables new parties to earn a place on the primary ballot by collecting either 890,000 signatures from registered voters, or by persuading 89,007 registered voters to switch their loyalties into the new party.
Soon after Mr. Perot's workers began collecting signatures, however, state officials said he was already too late to qualify by the first method.
As he has for weeks, Mr. Perot seemed to discourage speculation that he would use the party as a platform for a second White House run.
"I imagine that by the time I have this thing set up, I'll be so cut up you can't recognize me," he said at the news conference.
"This is not about me. I don't need to create a party to run," Mr. Perot continued. "If you spent some time analyzing this, you would conclude, 'If Perot really wanted to run for president, he wouldn't need to do this thing. He's done that before as an independent.' "
Mr. Perot said he knows of "at least eight" people who could run as the new party's presidential nominee. But he refused to disclose any of his choices and shrugged off the suggestion of retired Gen. Colin L. Powell.
He said his goal is to enable people to run "who have the talent and never have to beg for a penny of money."
As for relations between the races, Mr. Perot said the major problem has been the welfare system, which he called "the second American reservation." The welfare system has stifled self-esteem and initiative, he said, in the same way that reservations destroyed the talents of Native Americans.