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Monday, June 19, 2000


By Alan Elsner, Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - If you are looking for drama and passion -- and perhaps even a brawl -- from one of the national political conventions this summer, the Reform Party seems the most likely to provide it....

The Reform Party meeting, scheduled for Aug. 10-13 in Long Beach, Calif., seems likely to produce a passionate clash between supporters of fiery conservative Pat Buchanan and the stalwarts who backed party founder Ross Perot in his 1992 and 1996 presidential bids.

"There may well be a brawl on the convention floor. It's a real possibility...," said Jim Mangia, the party's national secretary, who is aghast at what he views as a right-wing takeover of the party by Buchanan....

There is much at stake at the Long Beach convention that is supposed to confirm the party's 2000 presidential candidate, who will be decided by mail-in ballot, as well as selecting his vice presidential running mate. The candidate will have access to $12.5 million in federal government campaign funds....

Anti-Buchanan forces scrambled for a candidate to oppose the former columnist and television pundit and have finally settled on John Hagelin, a physicist and head of the "Natural Law Party," who believes in "harnessing the managing intelligence of Nature to harmonize the diverse tendencies and needs of Americans."

One problem Hagelin faces is that the mail-in balloting system put in place by the Reform Party seems confusing and disorganized and potentially open to abuse.

The party intends to send voting forms to anyone who signed a petition to gain election ballot access for the Reform Party in their own state in addition to those listed as Reform Party members. Any other individual wanting to vote can also request a ballot by July 5.

However when this reporter requested by telephone a ballot from the Maryland coordinator of the Reform Party, his several calls went unanswered.

Hagelin's spokesman, Bob Roth, said Hagelin had a chance to beat Buchanan but, "only if it is a fair and open election and people have access to the ballot." He called that a "big if."

Mangia said Buchanan was trying to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, an allegation Buchanan vehemently denies.

"It's clear he's not running for president so much as trying to take over the Reform Party and turn it into a right-wing fund-raising organization. He's driving a pitchfork through the heart of the Reform Party," said Mangia.

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