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San Jose Mercury News
June 20, 2000


Divide: Critics say he's turning state organizations into conservative havens. By Maria Recio

Mercury News Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Just four months after running off Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura and his supporters, the Reform Party is in a new upheaval over a growing split between Pat Buchanan, the party's presidential front-runner, and a growing band of critics of the conservative commentator.

On Sunday, Lenora Fulani, a Marxist activist who had aligned herself with the conservative Buchanan, quit as co-chair of his campaign.

The association between Buchanan and Fulani came apart as Buchanan supporters have increasingly taken over state Reform parties, which critics charge are being converted into bastions of conservatism.

"I must and do object to your efforts to transform the party into a party of and for only social conservatives," wrote Fulani in a letter to Buchanan released to the media Monday....

The unhappiness of Buchanan's critics is forcing many to turn to an unlikely savior: John Hagelin, a physicist from the Natural Law Party who is also running on the Reform Party ticket.

Hagelin has scheduled a press conference today in Washington and will be joined by Reform Party chairmen from several states who now support his candidacy. Hagelin was thrilled Monday when told of Fulani's break with the conservative commentator.

"I think I could out-poll Pat five to one," said Hagelin during a luncheon interview. "I think it's going to be a landslide. It will be a terrific upset when I win the popular plebiscite." Hagelin, who like Buchanan joined the Reform Party last fall, is confident that he will benefit from the mail and online voting system that allows anyone, including Democrats and Republicans, to cast a ballot.

"I'm going to be taking a look at Mr. Hagelin," said Paul Truax, a founder of the Texas Reform Party who had initially welcomed Buchanan into the party.

Hagelin, who ran for president on the Natural Law Party ballot in 1992 and 1996, is the only other candidate so far to have qualified for the Reform Party primary ballot.

"Our national policy should be aligned with the laws of nature," he said, referring to his belief in prevention-based health care and other policies.

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