Kevin Zeese, a longtime Takoma Park political and social activist, announced an independent bid for the U.S. Senate yesterday, pledging to rally three of Maryland's minor political parties around his candidacy next year.

"I'm running for U.S. Senate because the two major parties no longer represent the interests of most Americans," said Zeese, who said he hopes to gain the backing of the state's Green, Populist and Libertarian parties.

Zeese, 49, who served as a spokesman for Ralph Nader's 2004 presidential campaign, said he will emphasize opposition to the Iraq war, the divide between rich and poor Americans and the need for paper receipts from electronic voting machines, among other issues.

He cited polls showing that up to 60 percent of Americans believe that the war is wrong and the United States should start withdrawing troops. He said Congress has not heeded such calls.

"Shouldn't there be at least one senator that represents the view of a majority of Americans on this critical issue?" Zeese asked in a statement issued before he filed papers at the State Board of Elections in Annapolis.

Although minor party candidates have traditionally fared poorly in Maryland, Zeese argued that he has the potential to buck the trend by waging a "unity campaign" with the support of multiple parties.

Zeese said he also expects to benefit from what is projected to be a close race next year between the Democratic and Republican nominees. A competitive election means people will view his campaign as relevant, because it could affect the outcome, he said. Once he starts drawing attention, Zeese said, support for his agenda will grow, turning the general election into an unpredictable three-way contest.

Zeese, who is running for the seat being vacated by Paul S. Sarbanes (D), said he should be able to raise money nationally from former Nader supporters as well as fellow antiwar activists.

Zeese joins a race that includes four announced Democrats: Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, former congressman and NAACP leader Kweisi Mfume, community activist A. Robert Kaufman, all of Baltimore, and Lise Van Susteren, a forensic psychiatrist from Bethesda. Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele of Prince George's County is expected to dominate the Republican field.

Kevin Zeese says his campaign will be viewed as relevant because it could affect the outcome of a close race between major party nominees.