Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader announced yesterday that he has selected one of the Green Party's best-known activists to be his running mate.

Nader tapped Peter Camejo, 64, a businessman who twice ran as the Green Party's candidate for governor of California, to be his vice presidential candidate. "Camejo shares my concern for economic and social justice, as well as the urgent need to protect the environment," Nader said in a statement yesterday. The announcement, which came just days before the Green Party selects its presidential candidate, will likely boost Nader's efforts to win the group's backing, said some political observers. "It seems like a very smart move, tactically, to select Camejo now, in order to extend Nader's reach to another political organization like the Greens," said Ross Mirkarimi, a longtime Green activist who worked on Nader's campaign in 2000. Camejo is "well-regarded, and he's not new to the scene."

Nader has been endorsed by the Reform Party. He twice ran for president with the Green Party's nomination before announcing earlier this year that he would strike out on his own. He said he would not accept the Greens' presidential nomination, because he does not want to be too closely associated with any party. But Nader said he would accept its endorsement, a less formal expression of support that could give him access to the party's ballot lines in 22 states and the District of Columbia.

His decision has deeply divided the Green Party between those who support the longtime consumer activist and those backing a little-known party activist named David Cobb. The party is expected to make its decision this weekend.

Camejo, a Venezuelan American who is fluent in Spanish, has backed Nader's presidential bid for months. He said he would attend the party's convention this week in Milwaukee, urging his colleagues to support a compromise in which the party would endorse both Nader and Cobb -- and allow individual states to decide which candidate to place on their ballots.

Nader's campaign has been facing an uphill battle to get on the ballots and, according to his latest campaign finance report, a shortage of cash. His campaign reported that it raised almost $1 million, but has spent nearly all of it. Nader began June with $73,000 in the bank and almost $25,000 in debt.

Longtime Green Party activist Peter Camejo talks to reporters in Washington after independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, right, picked Camejo to be his running mate.