A small group of Maryland Republicans banded together to announce last night that they will try to draft former state legislator and party chairman Aris T. Allen to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 1986.
R. Dan Ritchie, a member of the Prince George's County Republican Central Committee, is spearheading the effort to draft Allen, 74, a physician who lives in Annapolis.
He said the draft committee has attracted about 30 party members from around the state to serve on its steering committee.
"Up until the last couple of weeks, Republicans across the state thought they had only one choice," said Ritchie, who has been privately touting Allen as a prospective candidate since the party's May convention in Ocean City.
At that meeting, more than 200 delegates signed a petition urging Howard County Executive J. Hugh Nichols to switch from the Democratic to the Republican party, presuming that he would then seek the gubernatorial nomination.
Nichols has since switched parties, but has not yet announced his candidacy.
Ritchie was joined by about a half dozen other Republicans at a Greenbelt press conference yesterday and indicated that several members of the party were uncomfortable with Nichols' recent conversion and preferred Allen, who has been a Republican for more than 40 years.
Allen, who is black, could also be counted on to attract black voters to the party, Ritchie said, a factor that he called "the icing on the cake."
"There's so much talk around our nation about our party being open to the blacks," Ritchie said. "Well, that is an important factor."
Allen, reached at home last night, said he is not a candidate and will have to be persuaded that his supporters can marshal the funds necessary to mount a statewide race.
"Being the human being I am, my ears perked up at that, and that would interest me," he said.
"However, I would be curious to see what support exists in the community for me."
Allen said he will make his decision before the party's fall state convention.
State GOP Chairman Allan Levey said yesterday that "95 percent" of the leadership in the state party has decided to back Nichols if he chooses to run.
"The best bet the Republicans have in 1986 to win the governorship is Hugh Nichols," Levey said, adding that "We're just being realistic."