White House long shots: Hundreds have hopes - and campaigns

WASHINGTON - One presidential candidate who'll be on ballots in most states this fall says the United States should have sent Transcendental Meditation experts, not bombers, to Kosovo.

The Libertarians, also likely to be on most ballots, are choosing their candidate this weekend in a convention they're comparing to TV's ''Survivor.''

Then there's Gloria Dawn Strickland, who announced her ''Good News Campaign'' with little fanfare at the Million Mom March. She's telling everyone: ''Don't forget to write me in.''

Don't want to choose between Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush? More than 200 people have filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run for president, and even more are campaigning.

Many are known only to family and friends. Some are part of nationwide groups.

This weekend, for example, the Libertarian Party is touting ''the 'Survivor' of political conventions'' featuring four candidates in Los Angeles. Steve Dasbach, the party's national director, says, ''Only one contender will walk away with the grand prize, and you won't know how it turns out until the very end.''

Elsewhere, John Hagelin of the Natural Law Party predicts a ''grass-roots brush fire'' is going to land him in the White House.

Hagelin, a physicist whose party grew out of the teachings of Transcendental Meditation leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is seeking the Reform Party nomination, too.

The Natural Law Party calls for preventive health care, increasing the use of renewable energy sources and peaceful remedies for international conflicts. (Hagelin suggested sending 7,000 ''coherence creating'' professionals, including levitating yogic experts, to ease tensions in Kosovo.)

Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate who won the Green Party nomination last weekend despite Hagelin's desire to gain that, too, is running a campaign focusing on the environment, tort reform and fair trade. He wasn't pleased with Hagelin.

''You are dealing with delusion here,'' Nader said. ''He is getting tired. Too many Holiday Inns.''

Hagelin got one-tenth of a percent of the vote in 1996 and less than 40,000 votes in 1992. Nader came in fourth with less than 1 percent of the vote in 1996.

But in 2000 Nader has moved himself out of the fringe. In a June CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, Nader had 6 percent of the vote, compared with Reform Party contender Pat Buchanan's 2 percent.

So it goes for third-party candidates vying for national attention. There's America's Party candidate Joe Bellis, Common Sense candidate Paula Elizabeth Bennett and Populist-Democratic-Viking candidate Clay Oliver Hill, to name a few.

While the candidates span the political spectrum, they typically hold one common belief: The Republicans and Democrats have a weak hold on the American electorate.

Take Constitution Party candidate Howard Phillips. ''In God's providence, all things are possible,'' Phillips said. ''Our prayer is that our party will supplant the Republican Party.''

An ardent conservative, Phillips sat in front of a homemade map of the states where he's on the ballot and told reporters his positions. He's against abortion, burdensome taxes and gun control. He'd pull the United States out of NATO, limit the FBI and make sure the CIA knew it was not an arm of the State Department.

''If you don't go up to the plate and swing, you can't hit it out of the park,'' said Phillips, who's on the ticket in 31 states.

If the past two elections are any indication, Phillips will be among about two dozen hopefuls who get their names on state ballots.

But most candidates, like Gloria Dawn Strickland, will have to settle for a smattering of write-in votes. Strickland announced her run on Mother's Day at Washington's Million Mom March, which advocated gun control.

''If people have a choice, there is a great desire for change,'' Strickland said.

Her ''Good News Campaign'' calls for reparations to the descendants of slaves, a national health care system and gun control.

''You can take the government into your hands. You can do it with your right hand or your left hand,'' her fliers say. ''Remember to write me in.''


On the Net: Project Vote Smart: http://www.vote-smart.org/


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