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McCain fights own party to be on New York ballot

January 20, 2000
Web posted at: 2:12 AM EST (0712 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- GOP presidential hopeful John McCain says he is being kept off the New York presidential primary ballot "unreasonably and unfairly" and "in deprivation of the democratic process."

McCain's petitions to be in the March 7 primary are under challenge by the campaign of Texas Governor George W. Bush and the New York State Republican Party.

Bush and the party are questioning the validity and volume of McCain's signatures and whether they measure up to the state's stringent ballot access rules.

"In the view of everyone, I am a viable candidate and I should be on the ballot," McCain said after a Manhattan campaign appearance.

GOP Presidential primary

To qualify for the Republican presidential primary ballot in New York, a candidate must secure signatures from at least 5,000 of the state's three million registered GOP voters, including one-half-of-one-percent of registered Republicans in each congressional district.

McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona, submitted 11,000, seeming to meet the minimum requirement in most of the state's 31 districts. But the party is challenging his petitions in roughly half of them.

"Either Democrats have been named on the petition or signed the petition for him, or Democrats went out and obtained the signatures. We think that's an affront and a fraud to the Republican voters in this state," said Tom Ognibene, the Republican leader of the New York City Council and a Bush supporter.

New York's Republican establishment, led by Gov. George Pataki, supports the Bush campaign and has put its troops to work for him.

"This isn't the first time that the state Republican party has deprived an eligible credible candidate from being on the ballot," McCain said.

In 1996, GOP frontrunner and party favorite Bob Dole easily secured ballot access, while challenger Steve Forbes had to sue to secure his spot.

"I think it hurts the image of our party. What do the people of New York think about the fact they're being deprived of a choice of candidates? I think it's wrong," McCain said.

"Forty-nine other states, I have no difficulty getting on the ballot," he said.

Republican Party officials said McCain's petition drive was weak, his state appearances were few, and he shouldn't blame the process.

"He failed as a candidate. It's not that the state failed him," councilman Ognibene said. "We didn't see Mr. McCain around, he was busy in other states."

McCain, who has held 94 "Campaign 2000" town meetings in New Hampshire, held his first in New York on Wednesday, appearing before the leaders of Jewish organizations at the United Jewish Appeal offices.

The Arizonan came to the city Tuesday night to raise money as part of a multimillion dollar fundraising push that took him to Connecticut and Massachusetts on Wednesday.

McCain has filed suit in federal court to get on the New York ballot and have a shot at the state's 102 primary delegates, the third-largest cache going to the GOP convention in Philadelphia this summer.


Thursday, January 20, 2000

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