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Oakland Tribune
July 13, 2000


By Josh Richman
Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO -- A soft-spoken quantum physicist from Iowa picked up Reform Party presidential endorsements and leveled new complaints Wednesday to advance as conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan's political nightmare.

John Hagelin, making his third consecutive presidential bid on the Natural Law ticket, also seeks the splintered party's nomination this year. Buchanan sought the Republican Party presidential nomination in 1992 and 1996 but left the GOP in October to seek the Reform nod, apparently hoping his widely known name would make him a shoo-in.

Now, Hagelin is parlaying an anti-conservative, anti-Buchanan backlash into a tighter-than-expected race for the third-party nomination and $12.6 million in federal campaign money that comes with it.

California and New York are expected to provide a huge share of voters in the Reform primary, a five-week, mail-in vote ending Aug. 9. New York party leaders endorsed Hagelin last week, and Bay Area party leaders did the same Wednesday at the Westin-St. Francis Hotel on Union Square.

Reform Party San Francisco County Council Chairwoman Joyce Dattner called the Buchanan-Hagelin race "a referendum on the kind of party we'll be," and said Hagelin embodies the principles of "inclusion, diversity, democracy and humanism" on which the party was founded....

In an interview before the news conference, Hagelin said a recent burst of media attention has brought him more Web site hits and campaign donations

Polls show neither he nor Buchanan has a chance to defeat Democrat Al Gore or Republican George W. Bush, but Hagelin said using $12.6 million in federal matching funds to publicize his message and push major parties to adopt parts of his platform would be enough.

"A graceful way to die in independent politics is to be co-opted -- it's a perfectly noble way to have accomplished one's mission," he said.

Still, he cited Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura's Reform-ticket election as proof that third-party candidates can prevail: "Jesse Ventura went from nowhere to victory in three weeks. We have more than four months left -- anything is possible."

Hagelin doesn't fear draining votes from Gore, as Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader seems to be doing. Bush and Gore are owned by the same special interests, he said, and he's reaching out to former Republicans and former Democrats alike. Still, he acknowledged that he and Gore will vie for some Golden State votes.

"I would welcome Al Gore's withdrawal from the race," he said dryly. "He is eating into my support base."

Founded in the United States in 1992, the Natural Law party looks to common sense and scientifically proven principles to solve society's problems....

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