In a clear victory for the
Pat Buchanan faction over Reform Party founder Ross Perot's
faction, the Tennessee Reform Party has disaffiliated from the
In a letter dated Monday from Tennessee party chairman John
T. Fey to national chairman Gerald T. Moan, Fey told Moan that
the Tennessee party was disaffiliating with the national
party, effective Monday, and "will work with other state
organizations to create a new populist political party that
will put America First."
State party director Ray Howerton of Dyersburg said the
decision to leave the national party was made unanimously
during the Tennessee Reform Party's annual convention last
"We're going to be operating under a new name, the America
First Party," Howerton said. "The split within the Reform
Party resulted from philosophical differences between Ross
Perot and Patrick Buchanan supporters." Texas financier Ross
Perot, who twice ran for president, founded the Reform Party
In 1999 former Republican activist Patrick Buchanan was the
party's presidential standard-bearer. Howerton said Buchanan
better represents the original platform of the party and that
Perot "sort of fell into the background."
"Pat Buchanan has been pro-life while many Perot supporters
were middle-of-the-road and really almost pro-choice on
abortion," he said. "The objectives of the Reform Party always
have been to put a viable third-party candidate on the
He said the platform of the party and its Tennessee
officers will be retained in the America First Party. Howerton
said that nine other state Reform Party organizations,
including Texas, Illinois, Colorado and California, also have
disaffiliated with the national party.
We think as many as 35 state parties may disaffiliate as
soon as they have their state conventions and authorize their
officers to disaffiliate," he said. "We did not want to
disaffiliate because we wanted to keep the platform we have,
but the people on the national committee are finding it hard
to work with national party officers because Perot people are
"We're retaining legal rights to the name Reform Party of
Tennessee, but will operate under our new name," he continued.
"The America First Party will promote a platform which calls
for tax reform, stronger immigration laws, non-amnesty for
illegal aliens, fair as opposed to free trade agreements,
restraint of the federal government to its constitutional
powers and activities, rights guaranteed by the Constitution
and Bill of Rights and a sensible pro-life agenda."
Howerton said he does not believe Buchanan will again run
for national office. "I don't know who the national
spokesperson for the America First Party will be -- I've heard
the name (Arizona Sen. John) McCain from Perot supporters and
(Texas Congressman Ron) Paul from Buchanan supporters," he
said. "I've heard a lot of people say they intend to support
Ron Paul for president because he has introduced legislation
that would turn some of the party principles into law."
Howerton said the party will be aggressive in seeking state
and local candidates. "Our first announced local candidate is
James Edwards, who has announced he will run as an America
First candidate for the 97th state House district in Memphis."
Edwards is state treasurer of the party and a former Reform
Party national committee member.