Pat Buchanan brought his insurgent presidential candidacy to Annapolis yesterday as he and Reform Party officials filed petitions bearing what they said were enough signatures to put the party on the November ballot.
Buchanan, the best-known candidate seeking the nomination of the Reform Party, said at a news conference outside the State House that he expects to be on the ballot in all 50 states.
Accompanied by a dozen or more supporters, the 61-year-old candidate predicted that he would win a spot in this fall's nationally televised presidential debates and make the election a three-way contest with Democrat Al Gore and Republican George W. Bush.
Robert Bowes, chairman of the Reform Party in Maryland, said Buchanan's campaign gathered one-quarter of the estimated 12,000 signatures the party gathered to qualify itself for the ballot. He said Buchanan was the only candidate seeking the Reform nomination who aided the effort.
Buchanan, who bolted the Republican Party to seek the Reform nomination, has exacerbated divisions within the party founded by businessman Ross Perot for his 1992 and 1996 presidential campaigns.
Many Reform activists find Buchanan's brand of hard-right social conservatism unpalatable, but neither Perot nor any other well-known candidate has stepped forward to seek the nomination at the party's August convention in Long Beach, Calif. The most active candidate trying to deny Buchanan the nomination is Iowa physicist John Hagelin.
Bowes said Perot could step forward to compete with Buchanan in a mail-in primary. But the state party chairman said Buchanan has won all of Maryland's 11 delegates to the Reform convention.
In a recent national Gallup Poll, Buchanan's candidacy received 2 percent support, putting him in fourth place behind Green Party nominee Ralph Nader, with 6 percent.
But Buchanan predicted yesterday that by fall the race would narrow to three choices, Bush, Gore and him. "I don't know that the Green Party will be on in all 50 states," he said.
The candidate sounded many of the themes familiar from his failed 1992 and 1996 efforts to win the Republican nomination, including opposition to "mass immigration," interventionist foreign policy, free-trade policies and abortion.
Buchanan was especially critical of the recent congressional action to give most-favored-nation trade status to China, accusing Democrats and Republicans of colluding to expand trade with a country that could pose a military threat. "Somebody's got to stand up and say no to that," he said.
Buchanan also took note of yesterday's Supreme Court decision striking down Nebraska's law prohibiting a late-term abortion procedure.
Standing under a statue of the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, a supporter of abortion rights, Buchanan promised to appoint only justices who would uphold such bans.