- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2004

Lia Roberts, who served as chairman of the Nevada Republican Party for nearly a year, is raising her political profile by running for president of Romania.

A native-born Romanian who became a U.S. citizen 25 years ago, Mrs. Roberts declared her candidacy earlier this month in Bucharest. Wearing a white suit to symbolize her purity from corruption, the 54-year-old Republican activist vowed to boost the economy by cleaning up the government and fighting poverty.

“Nevada is as big as Romania and Bulgaria combined,” said Mrs. Roberts at her news conference, according to Reuters. “If I made it among foreigners there, I will get elected among my own people here.”

In a telephone interview, Mrs. Roberts said she consulted with Nevada officeholders, including the congressional delegation, before taking the plunge.

“I have great support from all the people I talked to in Nevada, including the congressional delegation. They told me it’s a great honor for the state of Nevada,” Mrs. Roberts said.

Armand Scala, president of the Congress of Romanian Americans, said he learned of her decision while watching Romanian television.

“I talked to her a day or two before she left for Romania, and she didn’t say anything about it,” Mr. Scala said. “Then, I was watching the Super Bowl, and I get Romanian TV, so I clicked it on during a commercial and there she was.”

He said he wasn’t surprised.

“She’s a very capable woman. I think she wanted to test the waters. You’re talking about a different environment, and even if you think you know it, you really don’t until you get there.”

Mrs. Roberts said her decision was prompted by two recent life-changing events.

First, her husband of 25 years, Joe Roberts, owner of a prosperous construction business, died a year ago, leaving her with an adult son and grandson. Then, in October, Romania, which has a population of 21 million, amended its constitution to permit Romanians with dual citizenship to run for office.

Mrs. Roberts already hired Dick Morris as her political consultant for a campaign that she estimates will cost between $10 million and $15 million.

“I’m looking out for the good of everyone,” she said. “I want to bring investment from the U.S. and jobs to help the middle class. There is hardly any middle class. There’s only the very rich and then everyone else is in poverty.

“If you bring credibility to the country, you can attract investments.”

Still, Mrs. Roberts faces some formidable obstacles. Rather than seek the nomination of a Romanian political party, she’s running as an independent, which means she has to gather 300,000 signatures 30 days before the election, she said.

The Romanian press also has taken a few swipes at her, suggesting at one point that she wanted to “fabricate a new identity,” she said.

“The press in Romania tries to pick me apart because it answers to the political parties,” said Mrs. Roberts. “But I don’t mind, because the reaction of the people has been unbelievable.”

There are no restrictions preventing U.S. citizens from running for office in a foreign country. Once elected, however, they often are required by the laws of other countries to relinquish their U.S. citizenship, said Kelly Shannon, spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Since the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, several naturalized U.S. citizens have run for office in their home countries. The best known of those is Valdas Adamkus , who was elected president of Lithuania in 1998.

Mr. Scala said Mrs. Roberts’ status as a U.S. citizen could help her with voters sick of politics as usual.

“Certainly, she wouldn’t have the history of corruption or other baggage.”

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