In Texas, the Democratic Party is sending warnings to 18,000 people, including all the delegates and alternates to the state convention and all the more than 6,000 precinct chairmen.
In Minnesota, Ruth Esala, chairwoman of the regular Democrats, the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, jumped at the chance to engage in a radio debate with a candidate for the DFL gubernatorial nomination in the hope of discrediting him with the voters.
Washington state Democrats take the problem in stride. As a matter of course, they mail information on it every year to about 400 newspapers and radio and TV stations.
The "problem" these state parties are addressing is Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., a political extremist who has been a fringe candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in the last three elections and whose movement is described by Democratic leaders as a "fanatical cult."
A Washington Post survey of states identified by the Democratic Party as having LaRouche-backed candidates on their ballots indicates that LaRouche claims 13 Senate and five gubernatorial candidates. The Senate candidates are in California, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Washington; the gubernatorial candidates are in Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania. Some LaRouche candidates have been disqualifed because of invalid petition signatures.
Officials at the Democratic National Committee and in the state parties say they also have identified about 90 LaRouche supporters running for House seats, with concentrations in California (13), Ohio (13), Pennsylvania (possibly as many as 13 or 14), Texas (11), Indiana (8), Minnesota (6), Maryland (5), Oregon (5) and Massachusetts (4).
There also are about two dozen state legislature candidates plus several seeking Democratic state, county and precinct chairmanships. These counts are tentative because party officials think that more LaRouche supporters may run, and filing in 30 states is still open.
Also, they say some candidates have been recruited by LaRouche followers without realizing it.
Juan Cortez, whom LaRouche claims as a U.S. Senate candidate in Iowa, says he was affiliated with LaRouche's political action committee, the National Democratic Policy Committee, because he thought it was the policy arm of the Democratic Party.
Some alleged LaRouche candidates say that they already wanted to run for office and the LaRouche urging simply galvanized them into action.
Many echo LaRouche's most extreme positions such as mandatory testing and quarantine of AIDS victims, "New Nuremburg Tribunals" for drug dealers, including bankers who "launder" illegal drug money, and his charge that the queen of England is a leading international drug trafficker. Steven Douglas, the LaRouche candidate for governor of Pennsylvania, refuses to shake hands with voters because he says he fears he'll contract AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
LaRouche's followers, estimated at 1,000 nationwide, waged generally ineffective political guerrilla warfare in a few states for several years until two LaRouche candidates last month won the Democratic nominations for lieutenant governor and secretary of state in Illinois. Two others, who ran unopposed in the Democratic primary in two heavily Republican districts there, will oppose GOP Reps. Harris W. Fawell and Edward R. Madigan.
In addition, Sheila Jones, a black who is LaRouche's Illinois coordinator, ran unsuccessfully against Sen. Alan J. Dixon in the Democratic primary and has announced that she will challenge Chicago Mayor Harold Washington next year.
The victories shocked the admittedly inattentive Illinois Democrats and may have doomed any chance Adlai E. Stevenson III had of unseating Gov. James R. Thompson (R). Now Democrats in the other 49 states are on a political Red Alert to avoid similar embarrassment.
They are unanimous in the belief that publicity is the best antidote. A LaRouche supporter in the Democratic primary in Illinois Republican Rep. John E. Porter's district was identified as such and was soundly defeated. Edward Mezvinsky, the Pennsylvania Democratic chairman, is urging a "frontal confrontation" and Democrats in states such as Iowa are confident that their close gubernatorial and House races will attract a turnout large enough to swamp the LaRouche candidates.
As a result, LaRouche's movement this year may have peaked on March 18 in Illinois, but more of his followers will be on ballots than ever.
Warren Hamerman, chairman of the NDPC, contends that the group will field about 800 candidates in 29 states, including about 180 House candidates. Democratic officials, whose candidates are the principal targets, foresee about half that many, but none takes the LaRouche-ites lightly, partly because they are active in many economically troubled areas where party loyalties are weakened.
LaRouche supporters are particularly active in Texas, whose May 3 primary is next on the calendar and whose Democratic chairman, Bob Slagle, they denounce as a "Stalinist."
They have filed for 10 House seats in the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth areas, "wherever there's an airport where they can recruit people," a Democrat says. Four are held by Republicans -- Reps. Bill Archer, Tom DeLay, Joe L. Barton and Richard (Dick) Armey. Republican Rep. Tom Loeffler also faces a challenge in his San Antonio-Midland district.
They also have a Democratic primary candidate against Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, two legislature candidates, about 20 (out of 254) for county chairman -- including Dallas, Harris (Houston), Bexar (San Antonio), El Paso and Travis (Austin) -- and about 100 (out of more than 6,000) for precinct chairman. In many cases they are running in districts where one party is so strong the other doesn't bother to offer a candidate.
"We don't file candidates against Archer and DeLay because they're so strong and we don't want to get them stirred up because we want to try to win some of the lower offices in those districts," said one Democrat.
The state party mailed warnings and identifications to the county chairmen last week and is preparing a newsletter to alert 18,000 Democratic activists.
"There's a hidden benefit in this because it forces us to prod people to organize at the grass-roots level," said Ed Martin, executive director of the state Democratic Party.
In Minnesota, LaRouche supporter Andrew Olson is running for governor accusing the news media of "Watergating" Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos out of office, calling for Marcos supporters to act as observers in the state elections and promising to replace "KGB Democrats in the Mondale-controlled DFL with patriotic Democrats in the growing LaRouche machine."
Esala "jumped at the chance" to debate Olson because, according to one official, "they're their own worst enemies . . . . "