Former Southern Baptist Convention officer Wiley Drake is reportedly officially a candidate for vice president of the United States in California–at least for now.

Ballot Access News, a Web site that covers minority parties, reported Monday that California’s Secretary of State recognized results of a July 5 convention led by a faction of the American Independent Party in Sacramento instead of a June 28-29 meeting by a faction loyal to the national Constitution Party in Los Angeles.

That means, unless there is a successful lawsuit to overturn the decision, former U.N. ambassador and perennial presidential candidate Alan Keyes is 2008 presidential nominee for the affiliate of the newly formed America’s Independent Party in Fenton, Mich., instead of Chuck Baldwin, a Baptist minister in Pensacola, Fla., whose defeat over Keyes at the Constitution Party’s National Convention in Kansas City in April prompted a split in the AIP, which was established in 1967 and had been California’s affiliate to the Constitution Party since 1992.

A Sacramento American Independent Party Web site identifies the party’s candidates as Keyes and Drake, while a separate American Independent Party of California site, declares the group’s continued national affiliation with the Constitution Party and endorses Baldwin and running mate Darrell Castle for president and vice president.

According to Front Page Magazine, members of the Baldwin faction claim the party was hijacked by former Chairman Ed Noonan, whom they replaced in June with Jim King of Riverside, the party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 2002.

According to Internet reports, 55 people, including 35 members of the state central committee attended the Los Angeles convention that elected Baldwin, while 19 attended the July meeting that voted for Keyes and Drake, including one or two who did not support its legitimacy.

But according to Ballot Access News, the Secretary of State’s chief legal counsel said the office had no knowledge of who was at either meeting or which was larger, but made its decision because Noonan is listed on records as the party’s chair.

Whichever side eventually prevails will win bragging rights as California’s third largest political party, because voters are automatically enrolled in the AIP if they register to vote as “independent.”

Keyes, a conservative activist who ran for president in 1996 and 2000 and against Barack Obama for Senate in 2004, entered the 2008 presidential race as a Republican but left the GOP for the Constitution Party in April.

In what was viewed as an upset, because of Keyes’ higher national profile, he lost 384-126 at the Constitution Party convention in April to Baldwin, founding pastor of Crossroad Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla., and host of a radio talk show.

Keyes refused to endorse Baldwin, claiming he had never officially joined the Constitution Party but was only wooed by some of its members.

While early reports said it wasn’t clear if Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., would accept nomination as Keyes’ running mate, Drake reportedly spoke favorably about America’s Independent Party on his live radio show July 8 and stated he would be voting for Keyes in November.

Earlier in the 2008 campaign, Drake supported Mike Huckabee for president, landing him in hot water with the IRS when he wrote a press release endorsing the former Arkansas governor’s bid for the Republican nomination on church letterhead.

After Americans United for Separation of Church and State said the IRS should investigate Drake for possible violation of tax laws that forbid electioneering by tax-exempt charities, Drake called for “imprecatory prayer” against AU staffers, a term for prayers from the Psalms that ask God to curse or destroy one’s enemies.

Drake said in May the IRS cleared him of doing anything wrong.

Drake was elected second vice president of the Southern Baptist Convention in 2006. He created stationery for himself under that title and used it to endorse a candidate for U.S. Senate, bringing rebuke from the SBC Executive Committee’s legal counsel.

In 2007 Drake gained attention when his name showed up on an Internet letter supporting James Kopp, a man convicted of killing an abortion provider. Drake denied that he ever signed the petition.

A driving force behind the SBC’s 1997 Disney boycott, Drake has been vocal in support of a movement to remove Southern Baptist children from public schools. The Los Angeles Times reported in June that he spoke up in the hallway before a court hearing about the rights of parents to homeschool their children.

“I’m an ambassador for the kingdom of God. I was a homeschooler for many years,” he said. “We used to move every three years so authorities wouldn’t come after us.”

“The Bible, our legal document, says the family is required to educate children based on the Scriptures,” Drake said. “We’re against government schooling in any form. People who put their kids in public school probably should be arrested.”

Last year Drake called for a boycott of CBN and “The 700 Club” after Pat Robertson endorsed former New York Gov. Rudy Giuliani for president.

Bob Allen is managing editor of

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