June 8, 2004
Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader is making a final push to qualify for the general election ballot in Arizona, and the state Democratic Party claimed Monday that he may be getting help from backers of President Bush.
Nader must deliver 14,694 valid petition signatures by 5 p.m. Wednesday to be listed on the Nov. 2 ballot with Bush and Democrat challenger John Kerry. Volunteers were scheduled to gather signatures Monday night in Scottsdale and Mesa.
Nader appears to be getting help from Republican activists who hope Nader’s candidacy will cost Kerry votes in a close election, Democratic officials said. Nader was a Green Party candidate in 2000, and many Democrats believe his bid aided Bush to defeat then-Vice President Al Gore.
Jim Pederson, Arizona Democratic Party chairman, issued a statement Monday calling on Nader to reject any petitions collected or paid for by Bush supporters.
Pederson specifically criticized Nathan Sproul, a former state GOP party chairman who owns a political strategy and petition circulation firm. Pederson said Sproul could be exceeding the federal donation limit of $2,000 if Sproul is paying for petition signatures out of his own pocket.
"Those true believers, the ones that believe Nader should have a chance to run, should really question the motives of their candidate," said Sarah Rosen, a spokeswoman for the state Democratic Party.
Sproul said he is not involved in collecting petitions for Nader.
"I think Jim Pederson is making wild accusations without any evidence in fact," Sproul said.
Two paid petition gatherers reached by phone said they aren’t receiving any money from Sproul, but refused to say who was paying them to collect signatures for Nader.
One of Nader’s Arizona coordinators, Michael Spreadbury of Buckeye, said that while he didn’t believe Sproul was bringing signatures to the campaign, there’s no reason to refuse help from Bush supporters.
"We have information that it will take votes actually from the Republican Party and it will actually help John Kerry," Spreadbury said. "For the Democrats to be like this, it really upsets me."
Pederson refused to back away from his statement, telling the Tribune that several experienced petition circulators, including Derrick Lee of Gilbert, are convinced that Sproul is involved in some way. Lee said he talked to at least one petition gatherer who has delivered signatures for Nader to Sproul’s office.
"What we want to do is make sure Ralph Nader follows the law," Pederson said.
Rosen and a Kerry spokeswoman said the U.S. senator’s campaign was not involved in Monday’s statement or efforts to keep Nader off the ballot. But Kerry told The Associated Press in mid-May that "a vote for Ralph Nader is a vote for George Bush."