- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 17, 2002

The Reform Party has ousted the last remnants of the leadership from 2000 presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan and is returning to the playbook that scored an impressive third-party showing in the 1992 presidential election, when Ross Perot headed the party.
Members from about 25 states voted at a convention in Colorado to oust Gerald Moan, the national chairman, halfway through his two-year term and install a new chairman, Lou Anne Jones, to serve out the term.
Miss Jones said the Sept. 7 vote was the final step in clearing the party of Buchanan followers in the leadership, and she said most of the rank-and-file Buchanan followers had already left the party.
"They saw the movement of the original people coming back in, and getting involved again, and they knew their days were numbered," she said. "They came in to support Mr. Buchanan, and he was no longer a candidate or no longer supporting our party. And they went away. They did not come in because of our platform or our principles, they came in because of a personality."
The remaining members hope the exodus will end a tumultuous few years. The February 2000 meeting in Nashville, Tenn., featured a full-blown fistfight in the hallways between two factions of the party.
That led to two separate nominating conventions that produced two nominees, Mr. Buchanan and John Hagelin, each of whom claimed to be the party's nominee and wanted the $12.6 million in federal elections money.
Mr. Buchanan won that legal battle, but garnered less than 1 percent of the popular vote in the election, costing the party the funds in 2004. Mr. Perot scored 19 percent of the vote in 1992 and won 8 percent of the vote in 1996.
Mr. Moan, who party members said allowed the Buchanan supporters to control the party, didn't return a phone call yesterday. For his part, Mr. Buchanan bid the Reform Party farewell and said he will not run for office again.
As of the convention, the Reform Party was nearly broke officials announced they had $400 in their treasury. But members said they have established the framework to grow, and some state parties that disassociated themselves from the national party will now come back.
"We accomplished the clean-up items. The platform was returned to the 1999 platform, we eliminated anything the Buchanan people had put into it. We are focused now on our government reform issues, and all the divisive social issues are gone," said Victor Goode, chairman of the Colorado Reform Party, who is also running for Congress from Colorado's new 7th Congressional District.
But David Gillespie, a professor at Presbyterian College in South Carolina who studies third parties, said it's too late.
"I don't think the Reform Party really has a future as a major party in this country, and I think it's proceeding down a well-known party path to oblivion," he said.
He said the best bet for third parties is now the Independence Party in Minnesota, where former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny is running for governor under the party label. Current Gov. Jesse Ventura, who is not seeking re-election, left the Reform Party during his term to become an Independence Party member.
Jim Mangia, who was the founding secretary of the national party, said members took some good steps at the Colorado convention. But he said the real test will be whether members can build a grass-roots organization. He said the lack of local organizations made it easy for Mr. Buchanan to take over the party.
"The question is, are we going to build at the base?" he said.
Mr. Mangia said one immediate test will be in California, where to remain on the ballot the party will need to garner 2 percent of the statewide vote in this November's elections or increase its registration to 1 percent of registered voters.

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