George D. J. Phillies is a reluctant candidate. Actually, he says he’s not a candidate at all.
The Worcester man, a physics professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, is so unwilling to stand for office in November’s election that he is taking part in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts against Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office seeking to be removed from the ballot as the Libertarian Party’s standard-bearer for president.
Mr. Phillies, 60, says that while his party’s state committee chose him as its nominee here, he told state election officials in Mr. Galvin’s office last spring that if he did not win the national nomination at the party’s convention in Denver last May, he would want the winner to substitute for his place on the state ballot.
Former Georgia congressman Bob Barr eventually won the party’s nomination, besting 13 other candidates, including Mr. Phillies, who came in fifth.
After the May 25 convention, Mr. Phillies asked the Secretary of State’s office if he could substitute the names of Mr. Barr and Mr. Barr’s running mate, New York businessman Wayne A. Root, for his name. But in June, election division officials denied the request.
They said the party would have to repeat the signature-gathering process to get the new names on the ballot, according to ACLU officials and Mr. Phillies, who also happens to be the vice president of the Worcester County chapter of the state ACLU.
Brian S. McNiff, a spokesman for Mr. Galvin, declined comment, saying the matter is in litigation.
Mr. Phillies is not a big fan of Mr. Barr, even though he says he plans to vote for him and supports him as his party’s nominee.
The two diverge significantly on political matters. Mr. Phillies, who styles himself a “centrist” Libertarian, calls Mr. Barr a “right-wing Republican” Libertarian whose stances against same-sex marriage and for the war on drugs are, to him, contrary to basic Libertarian principles of individual freedom.
“I think most of the state members of the party will not be heartbroken if this suit is not settled until after Nov. 4,” Mr. Phillies said. “But if you want to be a good man or a good woman, you have to keep your word.”
Meanwhile, the ACLU sees the issue as a case of ballot access freedom and the state squeezing a small party’s ability to field the candidate it chooses, depriving voters of the right to vote for the candidate they prefer.
John Reinstein, the state ACLU’s legal director, said that the state’s rules for ballot substitution appear to be “totally arbitrary,” arguing election officials have allowed similar substitutions in the past.
“It’s much easier for Republicans or Democrats to get on the ballot than a third party,” he said.
But what would be the harm of Mr. Phillies keeping his place on the ballot?
“He’s not the candidate,” Mr. Reinstein said. “Obviously, the candidate they’ve nominated is much better known.”