While actor Warren Beatty has publicly indicated that he was uncertain he would run for president, he unsuccessfully tried to get on the first draft of the California primary ballot issued Monday by the secretary of state.
According to a source familiar with Beatty's efforts, his emissary aggressively lobbied Secretary of State Bill Jones to get the actor on the ballot. The emissary, the source said, asserted that Beatty has not ruled out a run for president--his recent comments notwithstanding--and in fact has received extensive news coverage and was included in public opinion polls--thus meeting two of several criteria established by state code to get on the ballot.
Last week, speaking at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, Beatty was asked if he would run for president. "Umm . . . uh. . . . Here's the answer: I don't know," he said.
William Bradley, an aide to Beatty who has been in contact with Jones' office, denies that he pressed to get Beatty on the ballot. Rather, Bradley insisted his calls to Jones' staff were simply informational--to find out what it takes to be in the California race. "This might explain why someone got the idea that there was lobbying going on," said Bradley. "There wasn't."
However, a source familiar with contacts from the Beatty camp said Jones' office was bombarded for several days with phone calls and faxes, including a compendium of news clippings that recounted the actor's musings over his political future. "If it was simply an informational effort, the information they were seeking was why Warren Beatty wouldn't be on the ballot," the source said.
Meanwhile, Patrick J. Buchanan, who recently bolted the Republicans for the Reform Party, made sure he was not among the 22 names on the California ballot issued Monday by sending a one-sentence letter to Jones requesting that he be left off. The 22 names included obvious candidates such as Al Gore, Bill Bradley, George W. Bush and John McCain, as well as some less obvious ones such as Donald Trump, the flashy New York real estate tycoon, who made sure he was on the list by similarly contacting Jones' office and getting a nod from the Reform Party leaders of California who see him as presidential material.
Unlike previous presidential seasons, the California primary, which elects more delegates than any other state to the major party conventions, is now early and, thus, important.
In the past, the primary was in June, but has been moved up to March and thus could play a decisive role in the presidential nominating process. Also, changes to the primary rules in California will turn the primary into a sort of dress rehearsal for the general election: For the first time, there is a "blanket" ballot, which lets voters cross party lines to support any presidential contender regardless of whether they belong to the candidate's party. The results will be reported in two ways: first by top vote-getters regardless of party affiliation and separately by which candidate wins the most votes in his own party--and thus the most delegates to bring to the major party conventions.
Buchanan's sister, Bay, who is his top campaign aide, declined to be interviewed about why he did not want to be in such a prominent contest. Instead, through an aide, she gave a one-sentence explanation: "Pat Buchanan doesn't want to be part of a beauty contest."
There is time for him to change his mind--and perhaps for Beatty to get himself into his home state's race. The secretary of state has until Dec. 30 to place additional names on the ballot, or candidates he does not select can get on the ballot by circulating petitions.
Dan Schnur, a spokesman for McCain, said all the changes make the California primary one to watch, certainly in Republican circles because California sends 20% of the delegates in a system in which the top vote-getter takes all. Democrats will elect their delegates on a proportional basis--they will be awarded to candidates in a manner more closely reflecting the primary vote.
"For years Californians have watched the rest of Americans pick our presidential candidates for us," Schnur said. "Next year we get to make the pick for everyone else."