Bloomberg's Independence Primer

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This week TIME spoke with ballot access expert Clayton Mulford, who ran both of Ross Perot's Independent candidacies as campaign manager and principal spokesperson in 1992 and as general counsel in 1996. Mulford, a 51-year-old corporate security lawyer and director of Peerless Manufacturing Co., more recently has been working with the National Math and Science Initiative, a nonprofit education organization geared at expanding school programs in those areas. On Friday, January 18 in Austin, Texas, he met with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

TIME: What did you talk to Mayor Bloomberg about?

Mulford: We talked about the fact that I have some experience with what it takes to stage a national campaign as an independent and they enter a session of political and legal issues which occur in a third-party candidacy but not in major-party candidacies.

Bloomberg said he's waiting to see what front-runners emerge before deciding to run. Does he seem like he knows the intricacies of getting on the ballot as a third-party candidate?

Did he know all these intricacies? No. Like everybody else in America, including myself, when they look into this they're shocked and dismayed at how undemocratic and unfair the process is, which requires an immense amount of money and public support.

What makes it so hard?

Money is not enough in order to get on the ballot. For example in Texas we have perhaps the most difficult ballot access in the country because it's a combination as in all states of signature requirements — which in Texas is extraordinarily high, about 75,000 signatures — [and] timing requirements, the earlier the deadline the more difficult. And in Texas you cannot begin until the primary is over for Republican and Democratic presidential nominations and you have to end by May. So you have two months to collect 75,000 signatures. And the third prong is these silly and mean-spirited regulations that were designed to make it more difficult to get the signatures. In Texas you can't have anybody that voted in the primaries sign the petition.

What was his reaction?

He wondered what I thought about whether or not he could do it, and I think he can. But it's not a question about having financial resources. That's a necessary but not sufficient requirement. I told him that I thought there would be strong support for a third-party candidacy or independent candidacy. I thought that he was someone that could tap into that support very effectively in both social moderation and fiscal conservatism with an agenda of good government and doing what works instead of playing political games and fighting in the parties.

Did he ask for your help?

No, he just asked for my thoughts.

Now after meeting with him do you think he's intent on running?

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