Buchanan Turns Down Debate
By Tom Squitieri, USA Today
WASHINGTON - Pat Buchanan, who has been fighting his exclusion from presidential debates this fall, is refusing to debate John Hagelin, his only remaining rival for the Reform Party's presidential nomination.
Hagelin, who heads the Natural Law Party, challenged Buchanan this week to a series of debates "so that voters can make their choice" in the Reform Party's month-long mail-in primary election, which begins July 4.
Bay Buchanan, the candidate's sister and campaign manager,... said the campaign would scrutinize Hagelin's qualifications to be on the primary ballot. The Reform Party requires its presidential candidates to qualify for state ballots by collecting signatures in the 30 states where the party is not certified....
Buchanan, a conservative commentator, has declined to debate Reform rivals since quitting the Republican Party and entering the race for the Reform nomination. He has challenged a decision by the Commission on Presidential Debates to exclude from its debates any candidate who doesn't get at least 15% support in national polls. The commission reaffirmed that threshold Wednesday. Buchanan's showing in most polls is about 5%.
Hagelin had said that Buchanan's refusal to debate him would "undermine his moral authority to be included in the fall debates if he is unwilling to debate his only challenger to the Reform Party nomination." He added: "Just as George W. (Bush) had to confront John McCain and Al Gore had to confront Bill Bradley, Buchanan cannot feel he can grab taxpayer money without answering to the American people."
The party's nominee will get $12.6 million in federal funds for his campaign.
To choose a nominee, Reform Party officials will mail ballots to party members, people who signed petitions to get the party on state ballots and any registered voter who requests one. A voter has until June 30 to request a ballot and until an August date not yet set to return it. Hagelin was the Natural Law Party presidential nominee in 1992 and 1996. He is expected to be that party's nominee again this year.
For Reform Party members who object to Buchanan's conservative agenda, Hagelin has become the de facto stop-Buchanan candidate. Efforts to draft party founder Ross Perot and woo Green Party candidate Ralph Nader failed.
On Tuesday, Hagelin picked up some key party endorsements, including those of the state chairs of Georgia and Colorado and Jim Mangia, the national secretary.
Hagelin also hopes to win the support of Lenora Fulani, a 1992 presidential candidate of the New Alliance Party, a Marxist group. Fulani quit as co-chair of the Buchanan campaign on Monday.
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