Dislike Dems and GOP? Ralph Nader, Bill Hammons may provide alternative

By Stephanie Clary
THE COLORADO STATESMAN

Democrats and Republicans won’t be the only ones on Colorado’s ballot in November if campaigns for unaffiliated presidential candidate Ralph Nader and the Unity Party’s Congressional District 2 candidate, Bill Hammons, crossed all the right tees when they submitted their ballot applications to the Department of State.

Nader and Hammons are the only two non-major-party candidates for the statewide ballot who met the June 17 deadline for submitting their applications and accompanying signatures.

“We’ve filed, and it’s a very democratic process,” said Nader spokesman Chris Driscoll, speaking from the candidate’s national headquarters in Washington. “We urge other states to follow the lead of the few states like Colorado.”

Nader’s running mate is Matt Gonzalez, an attorney and former president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Gonzalez lost a tight race as the Green Party candidate for mayor of San Francisco in 2003.

In order to qualify for the ballot as an unaffiliated candidate, Nader and Gonzalez submitted a statement of intent, $500 and the signatures of nine registered voters pledged to cast ballots for Nader in the Electoral College.

Driscoll said this is the same process the campaign used to get Nader’s name on Colorado’s 2004 ballot.

He said Nader, 74, hopes to gain spots on the ballots of 44 states this year. So far, Driscoll says, he has submitted material to be on four, and is aiming to gain 10 spots by the end of the month.

“There are some states that are so difficult that it’s not worth it,” said Driscoll, explaining why the campaign isn’t trying for the ballot in all 50 states.

For example, noted Jenny Przekwas, Nader’s Colorado campaign coordinator, Arizona requires unaffiliated candidates to submit more than 20,000 signatures.

“We feel good, and proud of Colorado, and happy we can spend time campaigning for our candidate,” she said.

Przekwas said the campaign, which has regional coordinators in Boulder, Denver, Pueblo and Fort Collins, is planning events for the Democratic National Convention in August, including a major rally where Nader may be present.

When asked about possible backlash from Democrats, similar to the blame the party piled on Nader for Al Gore’s 2000 loss to George W. Bush, Przekwas said she doesn’t fear any criticism.

“Whatever comes up, comes up,” she said. “We live in a democracy, and although it’s not perfect, (there is) space and room for multiple voices to be heard. Not just two.”

Nader ran for the presidency as a Green Party candidate in 1996 and 2000, and as unaffiliated, though endorsed by the Reform Party, in 2004.

In Colorado in 2000, Nader won 91,434 votes. Bush took 883,748, and Gore got 738,227.

In 2004, Nader won only 12,718 votes in Colorado, while Bush took 1,101,256 and Kerry received 1,001,725.

Przekwas said Nader’s belief in “ballot access and that it should be a process that should be open to all without obstruction” motivates his run.

“People are talking more about the corporate issues … and the corporate influence in terms of money,” she said. “Personally, I think there’s been progress. Is it necessarily reflected in the number of voters who vote for him? It’s a tough call from people who support him and his positions.”

In the CD 2 race, Hammons submitted about 1,300 signatures on June 16.

Hammons needs 800 signatures verified to get on the ballot. Others vying for the seat are Democrats Joan Fitz-Gerald, Jared Polis and Will Shafroth, and Republican Scott Starin.

“Each and every one of them would make a fine congressperson,” Hammons said. “But those people, they’re part of the system, and among other things, they are not balancing the federal budget. It’s not on the radar screen.”

A balanced budget amendment is one of the issues the Unity Party advocates.

Hammons has raised only $221 for his campaign, far less than the $1 million-plus each of the other candidates have brought in.

However, on June 17, Hammons announced he sold his interest in Pioneer Exploration, an oil and gas company, and plans to contribute at least $10,000 to his campaign once this transaction is complete. He has already self-financed his campaign with $6,406.

“How am I going to win?” he asked. “I’m going to show them a viable, hardworking (candidate).”

The 33-year-old former rights and permissions manager at Newsweek and long-distance runner got into politics during Wesley Clark’s 2004 presidential run, when he founded the group Runners for Clark. He lives in Boulder and started the Web site wrhammons.com.

If Hammons makes the ballot, the Unity Party, which has a 23-state presence, will be recognized by the state, allowing voters to be able to register as official members.

He said only he and his campaign treasurer had gathered the signatures to be on the ballot, adding they were getting people to sign petitions every four or five minutes.

“They were signing with me because I’m not in one of the major parties,” Hammons said.

He added this was an indicator many in CD 2 are fed up with the two-party system.

“It’s a matter of tapping the support.”

— John Schroyer contributed to this article.