With Republican US Rep. John anderson fully expected to announce his independent candidacy for President April 24, his supporters in two Northeast states had head starts on his third-party bid in the November election.
In Trenton, N.J., supporters of the Illinois congressman became the first in the country to place his name on a presidential ballot as an independent candidate. On the next-to-last day that the names could be filed for candidacy in New Jersey, four Anderson supporters April 23 submitted between 4,000 and 4, 200 signatures -- from both Democrats and Republicans -- to get him on the ballot. Only 800 names were required.
Meanwhile, here in Massachusetts, Mr. Anderson's supporters are working to meet a May 6 deadline for getting his name on the November ballot as an independent. They are pressing a signature drive in a state whose voters have the reputation of being mavericks in choosing public officials, and which has a strong base of liberal activism in both academia and suburbia.
The New Jersey move, and a successful drive to get the required 39,245 signatures for a so-called "third party" candidacy in Massachusetts would give Mr. Anderson's campaign an important push in placing his name on ballots in other states, where there is more time to rally support.
Under Massachusetts law, and independent candidate must list a vice-presidential choice on the nomination papers. Mr. Anderson has asked Harvard Business School Prof. George Cabot Lodge, son of former UN Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, to be his ballot running mate here.
Professor Lodge, who was the 1962 Republican US Senate candidate against Edward M. Kennedy, says he doubts he would be Mr. Anderson's national running mate. But the one- time assistant US secretary of labor under President Eisenhower argues that voters should be given "more of a choice for president than Ronald Reagan and President Carter."
Mr. Anderson, it is noted, polled 122,987 votes (nearly 30 percent of the total) in a field of eight GOP candidates in the March 4 Massachusetts presidential preference primary -- or 7,653 more than Mr. Reagan. Among Democrats, President Carter received only 28 percent of the primary vote against the strongly favored native son, Senator Kennedy.
Anderson activists thus are optimistic that their candidate, even as an independent, could receive early support here and could carry Massachusetts in November.
Four years ago, however, independent candidate Eugene McCarthy, a former Democratic senator from Minnesota, polled only 2.5 percent of the vote in Massachusetts.
although Mr. Anderson has not yet said he will run as an independent, the Bay State signature drive is well under way. "We have about 500 people, many of whom worked for the congressman in the preference primary campaign last month, and the response so far has been great," says Jane Fowler, who is directing the current effort.
The Anderson enthusiasts, who came to Boston April 16 from her post as director of the candidate's field operations in Washington, explains that similar efforts to get the Illinois Republican on November ballots in other states are in the works.
Should the current effort fall short, the congressman could still run as a third-party candidate here. But he would have to do so as a write-in contender without having his name printed on the November ballot.
The Massachusetts signature drive, which began April 18, is being focused on campuses and other areas of the state where the candidate had his strongest support in the primary.
Any registered voter, whether enrolled in a political party or not, can sign nomination papers for an independent candidate.
Boosters of an independent Anderson candidacy view it as a natural move, since a significant portion of his GOP primary support in Massachusetts came from voters who abandoned their independent status to take Republican ballots so they could vote for him.