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Reform Party split as eight state party leaders disaffiliate

By STEVEN K. PAULSON Associated Press Writer
April 15, 2002

DENVER- The Reform Party, which deadlocked over a candidate two years ago in a dispute over the legacy of presidential candidate Ross Perot, suffered another blow Monday when party leaders in eight states, including Tennessee, dropped out and announced plans to form their own party.

National party treasurer Dan Charles said members were angry over the decision by national chairman Gerry Moan to suspend the business of the national committee last month in a dispute over leadership.

About 30 national committee members resigned from the Reform Party National Committee, along with six of the 11 members of the Reform Party National Executive Committee, said Charles, a Boulder resident.

"My state chose to take this step to protect itself and its candidates from a dictatorial national chairman who seems bent on destroying the Reform Party," said Charles, who was the Colorado party's state chair.

Reform Party officials welcomed the split.

"The people who are leaving caused the infighting. We're shedding the shackles of the poor planning and the misappropriation of funds in the last election. We're now going to get back to our agenda and the broad-based appeal this party once had," national party spokeswoman Cherilyn Bacon of Irvine, Calif., said.

Charles transferred financial duties to Moan, moving the financial national headquarters of the party from Boulder, Colo., to Tucson, Ariz.

Disaffiliating while keeping their state parties intact were party leaders in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Illinois, Colorado, New Hampshire and Iowa, Charles said.

Tennessee Reform Party chairman John Fey said he had hoped the party "would've been reformed" at its national convention last July in Nashville. But Fey said "the infighting and bickering were just too much to overcome."

Fey described this year's convention as "pretty peaceful" compared to its 2000 convention, which was also held in Nashville. That meeting included shouting matches and fistfights over control of the party.

The Reform Party of Texas dissolved itself and will reorganize under a new name.

The party lists about 350,000 members nationwide. Bacon said the party lost hundreds of members because of the split.

Party leaders in those eight states plan to form a new organization called the America First Party. It will be based on the same principles that prompted them to nominate Perot, who won 8 percent of the national vote in the 1996 election, Charles said.

Those principles include promoting fair trade, a noninterventionist foreign policy, conservative social programs, and reforming immigration laws and campaign finance.

Other state party leaders also expressed frustration with the party.

"The wheels have fallen off the Reform Party, but Americans still need an alternative dedicated to American values," said David Doyle, Reform Party of Iowa chairman.

Former Reform Party National Secretary John Pittman Hey of Mississippi said other state party leaders may join the exodus.

The party split two years ago over a presidential candidate, with one faction one listing Pat Buchanan and the other John Hagelin as the official nominees following the national party convention in Long Beach, Calif.

Some states held lottery drawings and others simply picked a candidate to represent the party on the ballot.

___

On the Net:

Reform Party: http://www.reformparty.org

National Secretary's Report: www.msreformparty.org/southcarolina/

Copyright 2002, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

 
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