- The Washington Times - Monday, July 31, 2000

Natural Law Party presidential candidate John Hagelin yesterday claimed he had won the Reform Party's nomination, even as Pat Buchanan's campaign dismissed as illegitimate a Reform committee that voted to throw him off the party's ballot.

"Reports of my political death are premature," Mr. Buchanan told supporters at a Loudon County, Va., fund-raiser yesterday.

A day after a meeting of the Reform Party Executive Committee voted to remove Mr. Buchanan from the party's presidential ballot, Buchanan spokesman K.B. Forbes called the committee "a group of dissidents with no standing or authority."

Bay Buchanan, the candidate's sister and campaign manager, yesterday said that two of the seven committee members who voted to oust her brother lacked credentials.

"What it was, there were five there," Mrs. Buchanan said. "To be legitimate, they needed six. So it was a meeting of some buddies."

Mr. Hagelin, an Iowa physicist, said the party's Executive Committee ruled that Mr. Buchanan had effectively forfeited by refusing to turn over a list of 1.2 million voters who had received Reform Party ballots.

Mr. Hagelin said that it was possible there would be two people, himself and Mr. Buchanan, claiming to be the Reform Party's presidential nomination during the party's national convention next week in Long Beach, Calif.

"It would have been better for me if he had not been disqualified himself," Mr. Hagelin told The Washington Times yesterday in a telephone interview from Dallas. "It would have been best for me to beat him fairly and decisively. We were beating him legitimately. I had a huge margin among Reform Party voters."

Mr. Buchanan "has the money" to make a showing at the Aug. 8 Reform convention, Mr. Hagelin said. "But Pat Buchanan has never played by the rules, and he has utter disregard for this process."

"It's too bad that he had to stoop to increasingly desperate measures to corrupt the vote," Mr. Hagelin added. "But this was a popular vote that they couldn't win."

Mr. Buchanan yesterday said that, since leaving the Republican Party last year, he's been helping to build the Reform Party "to where it's up and running." He also said his campaign was on schedule to have him on the ballot in all 50 states in November.

At a fund-raiser yesterday in Sterling, Va., where his campaign expected to raise about $10,000, Mr. Buchanan told loyalists that, in leaving the Republican Party, "We walked away from a party that walked away from battle and walked away from us."

The Reform Party was founded by Texas billionaire Ross Perot after his 1992 independent presidential campaign, which garnered 19 percent of the popular vote. He won less than half that in 1996, but that was enough to qualify for $12.6 million in federal election funds for the party nominee in the 2000 campaign.

Mr. Buchanan's outspoken and conservative rhetoric on issues such as abortion and trade have angered some Reform Party members who feel the three-time Republican presidential candidate would take the party in the wrong direction.

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