Wooing the crowd by bashing a lumbering federal government, Ross Perot challenged supporters Saturday to get the 890,064 signatures needed to qualify his Reform Party for the California ballot.
“This is going to be a challenge, but boy is this going to be fun,” Perot told a wildly enthusiastic crowd of 500 supporters for the signature-gathering at the Orange County Sequoia Convention Center.
“Wouldn’t it be neat if our government worked on problems this aggressively?” asked Perot. The government “couldn’t organize a group in silent prayer in a week.”
The fast-paced signature drive began Monday.
To speed the process, Perot placed Sunday ads in 41 California newspapers with a combined circulation of 6 million. The ads were designed as ready-made petitions that could be clipped, filled out and sent in.
Volunteers have until Oct. 24 to gather 890,064 petition signatures or 89,007 voter registrations to win a spot on the California ballot for next year’s presidential race.
Perot has until Nov. 20 to get 33,462 signatures in Ohio and mid-December to gather 25,000 names in Maine to get on those states’ ballots. The remaining states have 1996 deadlines, allowing more time to gather support.
Perot, who got 19 percent of the vote as a 1992 presidential candidate, has remained quiet about whether he will run this time around.
Political analysts believe that if the financing and grassroots support are in place, Perot can meet the deadline.
“If they still have their mailing lists and phone trees, they can get people out there quickly, and it is not going to difficult at all,” said Ron Ballard, editor of Ballot Access News in San Francisco. However, a spokeswoman for the California secretary of state said it would be “an incredible feat” if Perot can pull it off.
Meanwhile, feelings are running high among old Perot supporters. United We Stand America national spokeswoman Sharon Holman said, “There is a lot of awareness and enthusiasm.”
But outside the Buena Park event, protesters who once supported Perot and remain members of the United We Stand organization he created in 1992, shouted that he now was the enemy.
Holding a sign reading “Endorse Buchanan now,” for conservative Republican Pat Buchanan, Walter Scott, 71, yelled his message through a megaphone.
“Ross Perot is doing his bit to destroy the U.S.A.,” Scott told listeners. “He wants to scrap our Constitution.”
The billionaire Texan’s speech was momentarily interrupted when he told a few protesters standing in the back of the room, “Can’t y’all afford to have your own rally somewhere?”
One demonstrator had his “Clinton Puppet Party” placard ripped out of his hands before he was thrown out.
Wanda Martins, 63, came from Palos Verdes with a group of friends who all planned to get signatures.
“None of the politicians are attacking any of the things important to us, like balancing the budget,” she said.
Perot’s hour-long speech included talks about NAFTA, Medicare and balancing the budget. Using downhome appeal and motivational skills, he urged the mostly elderly crowd, “We need action, action, action!”
“We must restore confidence in our government,” he said. “And the people in government must earn our trust and respect.”