Thursday, June 15, 2000
N.C. REFORM PARTY CONVENTION MAY DISPLAY FAULT LINES WITHIN REFORM PARTY
Buchanan, Perot supporters have clashed in other states
By DAVID PERLMUTT
Hundreds of N.C. Reform Party members will gather in Charlotte Saturday for their state convention with the national party that Ross Perot built fractured and searching for harmony.
A split has been widening in recent months between presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, seeking the Reform Party's nomination, and longtime Perot loyalists who are concerned Buchanan is using "strong arm" tactics to co-opt the party and build a new one that looks nothing like the old.
The party blossomed in 1992 from Perot's failed presidential bid that pushed for a balanced budget, term limits and campaign finance reform. Buchanan quit a fourth bid for the Republican nomination last year, bringing to the Reform Party issues such as abortion, isolationism and homosexuality.
Many longtime members, attracted by the party's founding principles of governmental reform, are concerned the Buchanan campaign is gathering enough support to rewrite the platform at the Reform Party national convention in Long Beach, Calif., in August.
In several states such as Georgia, Wisconsin and Texas, Buchanan's backers have flooded state conventions and either demanded the resignation of state party officials or voted out existing officials and voted in their own.
"I have not seen anywhere that Mr. Buchanan plans to rewrite the platform," said Dot Drew of Hendersonville, vice chairman of the state party who is remaining neutral. "But for those of us who passionately support the founding principles and platform, when we hear or see things that tell us there are plans to change that platform, then we get concerned...."
Around the country, panicked party regulars have considered everything from drafting Ralph Nader, the Green Party's presidential candidate; to postponing or canceling the national convention; to building an anti-Buchanan vote by supporting Natural Law Party founder John Hagelin, who already is seeking the party's nomination.
Saturday, Hagelin and Buchanan are scheduled to speak during the Charlotte convention at the Marriott Hotel at Tyvola Road and Interstate 77....
Hagelin is seeking the nomination for the Natural Law and Reform parties to form a coalition of third parties. In an interview Thursday, he criticized the Buchanan campaign for its "strong-arm tactics and rampant intolerance."
"Ross Perot envisioned a mainstream alternative to Republicans and Democrats, taking a centrist stand for fundamental democratic reforms," said Hagelin, a quantum physicist. "He steered clear of divisive social issues such as abortion, trotted out to polarize the country. He felt like I feel that the federal government has no constitutional or moral authority to impose one man's views on an entire country."