MANCHESTER, N.H. — Scores of volunteers gather in a former Big and Tall Man store in a Manchester mall to mark crossing the threshold of signatures needed to place independent Ross Perot on the New Hampshire presidential ballot in the fall.
"We're all real amateurs," says Herb Clark, volunteer chairman of the petition drive. "We had never written a press release.... The first week [after Mr. Perot announced he was available for a draft] I got 300 calls. At the end of a month, I still had 200 people I had not called back, so I started delegating."
To get on the ballot, a candidate needs signatures from 1,500 registered voters in each of two congressional districts, Mr. Clark says. In seven weeks, several hundred volunteers collected more than 5,000 signatures he adds.
Clark, who also ran for vice president in the New Hampshire primary, says he was recruited to lead the drive after a call to Perot's Dallas office to promote a "solar-power smog cleaner" he had designed to clear up Los Angeles.
When the drive started on March 28, Clark says, the campaign attracted 10 to 40 volunteers a week; that number has more than doubled in the last two weeks, an increase he attributes to "voter dissatisfaction with both the Congress and the president."
Many in the room echo this sentiment.
David Putney, a systems analyst who worked for Democrat Tom Laughlin in the New Hampshire primary, says he joined the Perot effort because "people in office are selling the country down the drain."
The core of the volunteer drive was recruited from the Laughlin campaign, Clark confirms, but for many others it is a first-time political experience.
Computer consultant Andrew Levine found out about the petition drive from the 800 number he saw on television. "I believe that a lot of politicians have violated our trust," he says. "Now the average citizen has to get involved."