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Washington Post
August 27, 2000


By Cathy Newman and Ben White

Washington Post Staff Writers

Just two weeks after anarchy erupted at the Reform Party's national convention, chaos now reigns in the states over the true identity of the alternative party's presidential nominee.

Many states have yet to decide whether Patrick J. Buchanan or John Hagelin will appear on the November ballot as the Reform candidate after both men were nominated by competing conventions in Long Beach, Calif.

Buchanan, a former Republican, and Hagelin, a meditating physicist who is backed by many Reformers loyal to party founder Ross Perot, each assert the right to $12.6 million in federal campaign funds and each believes he should appear on state ballots as the Reform candidate. The trouble is, many states have no mechanism to decide who is right and face deadlines for finalizing their ballots that make it impossible to wait for the Federal Election Commission or the courts to sort things out.

Some state officials have thrown up their hands in despair and employed lotteries to decide the matter. Iowa, faced with a Wednesday deadline to certify its fall ballot, pulled Buchanan's name out of a specially purchased glass bowl last week. In Montana, Hagelin's name was drawn from 20 cards circulating inside a ballot box.

But these luck-of-the-draw methods have satisfied neither the candidates nor state election officials.

"We don't have a board of elections, and there are no statutes to guide us," said Mike Cooney, Montana secretary of state. "The Reform Party needed to resolve this issue before it got to this point. It's an internal party problem that has been foisted upon the states and put us all in a bad situation."

Take Colorado, for example, where the national party has opted for Buchanan and running mate Ezola Foster, a conservative former educator who recently acknowledged receiving workers' compensation benefits for a mental disorder she now says she never had. The Colorado state party is backing Hagelin and running mate Nat Goldhaber, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Election officials in the state meet Tuesday with the state attorney general to decide what to do.

In California, election officials are back to square one after the state party submitted and then rescinded Buchanan's name, according to Alfie Charles, spokesman for Secretary of State Bill Jones. He said the turmoil was "unprecedented in recent history." The party has until Thursday to identify its nominee.

Buchanan supporters last week hailed a 3-to-1 decision by the North Carolina Board of Elections to put their candidate on the ballot as the Reform nominee. Hagelin, claiming the support of state Reform leaders, is considering a court challenge.

Some states have simply booted both candidates. Larry Perosino, spokesman for Connecticut Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz, said state law would not allow one party to list more than one candidate. So, barring a court order, neither will appear.

In large part, the fevered jockeying for state ballot access is intended to influence the Federal Election Commission, which is set to begin deliberations over which candidate should be called the Reform nominee and thus receive the $12.6 million in public funds.

To qualify for the money, each candidate must submit documents proving he is on the ballot as the party nominee in at least 10 states. Buchanan did that Friday, and Hagelin said his campaign will follow suit by Wednesday....

Voters in several states will get the chance to vote for Hagelin or Buchanan no matter which candidate gets the Reform Party line. Buchanan has sought ballot access as an independent and under other party names, and Hagelin says he will appear on more than 40 ballots as the Natural Law Party candidate.

Hagelin will officially get the Natural Law nod, for the third straight time, at what he is calling a "coalition" convention to take place starting Thursday in Alexandria, featuring Natural Law, Reform and assorted other third-party members.

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