Rep. Edward B. Beard said today that he will run in Rhode Island's presidential primary next year and deliver any delegates he wins to Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.
Beard, one of a group of Democratic congressmen who organized a draft-Kennedy movement last spring, said he intends to campaign actively, paying particular attention to students and labor.
A housepainter before his election to Congress in 1974, Beard organized the Bluecollar Caucus, a group of House members with working-class backgrounds and pro-labor interests.
"The people in the state of Rhode Island should have a chance to vote for Senator Kennedy," said Beard. "I will give them that chance at the time of the June primary."
Rhode Island thus becomes the third New England state where a Democratic politician has said he will run in a 1980 primary to deliver delegates to Kennedy. Sens. Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts and John Durkin of New Hampshire have announced such ambitions in their states.
Beard said he would change his mind about running only if an inforeseen event made the Kennedy candidacy unrealistic, or if the Massachusetts senator entered the primary here himself.
Under Rhode Island election law, 16 delegates elected in the primary will be split in proportion to each candidate's share of the primary vote. Five more delegates will be chosen by the 16 elected delegates before next summer's Democratic National Convention opens in New York City.
Rules approved by the Rhode Island Democratic Central Committee call for delegates to vote on the first ballot for the candidate to whom they are pledged. However, a clause that prohibits anyone from forcing a delegate to vote "contrary to his expressed presidential preference" would allow the Beard delegates to vote for Kennedy on the first convention ballot, according to top party officials in the state.