WASHINGTON — Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader named a running mate Wednesday, San Francisco lawyer Matt Gonzalez, 42, a Green Party member who nearly became the city's mayor in 2003.
"I find Matt Gonzalez to be unwavering in his principles and committed to his politics with clear eloquence and humane logic," said Nader, standing with Gonzalez at a news conference at the National Press Club.
Nader stipulated for the first time that he wouldn't seek the Green Party nomination and its valuable ballot lines in 21 states and the District of Columbia, promising to wage a 50-state campaign as an independent.
Green Party spokesman Scott McLarty said, "I think he made a good choice in Matt, but we regret he's not running for the Green nomination."
Nader, who was the Green Party nominee in 2000 but ran as an independent in 2004, said, "One of our main goals is to level the playing field of getting on the ballot."
The first test for Nader is Texas, which gives independent presidential candidates from March 5 — the day after its primary — until May 12 to submit petitions with 74,108 signatures of registered voters who didn't vote in the presidential primary of either party.
The longtime consumer advocate is still embroiled in lawsuits from the 2004 campaign, when many Democrats, who contend that Nader's 2000 showing denied their nominee, Al Gore, the presidency, blocked him from getting on many state ballots. In 2004, Nader was on the ballot in only 34 states and the District of Columbia.
Gonzalez, a former member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, is well-known in Northern California, where he lost the San Francisco mayor's race to Democrat Gavin Newsom by 53 percent to 47 percent.
"He's always been the poster boy for the Greens here," said Johnny Wang, a San Francisco Democratic political consultant who worked on Newsom's 2003 race. "He became the rallying point for people who were angry at the system." But Wang doesn't think that Gonzalez will be much of a draw for Nader in California.
Neither does Jack Pitney, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California.
"Nader's big problem is that so many Democrats blame him for 2000 that he's not going to peel away Democratic votes," Pitney said. "He's more famous for that than for being a consumer advocate."