WASHINGTON - Ralph Nader (news - web sites), the third-party candidate viewed by many Democrats as the spoiler of the 2000 election for taking votes away from Al Gore (news - web sites), has decided not to run on the Green Party ticket next year, a party spokesman said Tuesday.
Nader, who garnered nearly 3 percent of the national vote in the last presidential election, has not ruled out running for president as an independent and plans to make a decision by January.
"I think we're all a little bit disappointed," said Scott McLarty, a Green Party spokesman. "I suspect Mr. Nader would have gotten the nomination."
Nader called party officials Monday to inform them of his decision, said Ben Manski, a Green Party co-chairman and spokesman. Nader's reasons were not clear, Manski said.
Nader could not be reached Tuesday. A Nader spokeswoman said he was not immediately available for comment.
New York's Green Party urged Nader to reconsider, saying in a statement Tuesday that a separate run could be "disastrous" for both Nader and the party, in part because it could confuse voters and divide the infrastructure and resources that a single national campaign could help build.
Six people have already declared their intentions to be the party's nominee, including Green Party general counsel David Cobb and Peter Camejo (news - web sites), the party's candidate in the California recall election. McLarty said a front-runner will likely emerge before the party's convention in Milwaukee in June.
Nader stumped for Camejo in California and has also mentioned him as a possible Green candidate.
A consumer activist who became a household name decades ago for his efforts to push the auto industry to improve safety standards, Nader appeared on many Democrats' hate list after the 2000 election. Gore lost decisive Florida by fewer than 600 votes, while Nader got nearly 100,000 there. Many Democrats are convinced enough of those voters would have swung the election to Gore if Nader had not been on the ballot.
Nader and the Green Party rebuff such criticism, blaming a biased Supreme Court decision, the Florida Republican Party and Gore himself for running a weak campaign.
In an effort to gauge support, Nader has a new Web site and an exploratory committee, attends small fund-raisers, and has mailed letters to supporters. He said he has raised more than $100,000, mostly to pay expenses for the exploratory network, but is noncommittal on whether the resources are sufficient yet to persuade him to run.
"We're awaiting the feedback on resources and volunteers," he said in an interview Monday.
Nader said running as an independent would not hurt his campaign. "As an independent, you can do more innovative things because you don't have to check with all the bases," he said.
But McLarty said Tuesday it would be hard for Nader to get his name on the ballot in all states.
"He doesn't have the infrastructure to do that," he said.
The Green Party is debating whether to take a nominee on a full state-by-state campaign or to adopt a "safe state" strategy. Under that method, the party would mostly avoid states up for grabs, in order not to jeopardize the Democratic candidate's chances against President Bush (news - web sites).