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Perot Backers Rebuffed in Calif.

June 5, 2000

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ California Reform Party members rejected a move by Ross Perot loyalists to keep presidential hopeful Patrick Buchanan off the ballot in the nation’s most vote-rich state.

By a show of credentials, Buchanan’s opponents joined his supporters on Sunday to kill a watered-down version of the resolution.

Some could not stomach the thought of breaking up the party, however temporarily, which they had worked years to build.

``I will not dissolve this party on a whim because we are in the middle of a bit of turmoil,″ said Valli Sharbe-Geisler of San Jose, who is undecided on Buchanan. ``We disaffiliate, (then) we create a vacuum. Fools rush in where a vacuum appears.″

Some longtime members believe that’s already happened in the absence of Perot, who has remained silent this year and has made no move to lead the party or run for president.

Buchanan, a former White House speechwriter and expert in foreign policy, entered the picture in October after being overshadowed by other candidates in the GOP primary for the third straight presidential election in a row. He’s on track to receive the Reform Party’s presidential nomination at its Aug. 10-13 convention, as well as the $12.6 million in federal funding that comes with it.

Buchanan got word of the California vote minutes after speaking to about 50 people at the Rhode Island Reform Party Convention in Warwick.

``I think what you’re seeing is sort of last ditch efforts by people who are unreconciled to my nomination to derail it, even if it causes damage to the party, and they’ve failed at every stop so far,″ he told reporters. ``We had a great, great weekend.″

But some longtime party members have not given up blocking him.

Devotees to the party’s platform _ which is silent on social issues _ have been offended by Buchanan’s outspokenness on abortion and homosexuality, as well as his campaign tactics in pursuing delegate votes to the national convention.

Led by Jim Mangia, the national party secretary from San Francisco, this group circulated a resolution at the convention that would have given Buchanan a choice: Either promise to abide by certain rules or wave goodbye to ballot access.

Eight of the state board’s 13 directors signed off on a resolution Saturday that said the California chapter of Perot’s Reform Party would split from the national organization _ and thus provide no ballot in California for its nominee’s name on Election Day _ unless Buchanan agreed:

_That the national convention delegates, not he, will select a running mate;

_To not apply litmus tests on social issues to that running mate, and;

_To not add his anti-abortion position or other views on social policy to the Reform Party platform, which is silent on those issues.

On Sunday when the measure came before the state convention, Buchanan’s supporters responded with shouts, boos and hisses. The authors proposed to soften the language by applying the questionnaire to all of the party’s presidential candidates.

They assured delegates that the party could rejoin the national group after the election.

The boos died down a bit, but the prospect of giving up the party however temporarily was too disturbing even for some Buchanan’s opponents.

``We have to stay together as a group,″ said Sharbe-Geisler.

The authors watered down the resolution still more by deleting the part about disaffiliating. Without it, the party would endorse only those candidates who answer the questions affirmatively.

Still, by a show of delegate credentials instead of a voice vote, convention delegates rejected it.

``The majority of Reform Party members believe that Pat should not be put to that type of test,″ said his political director, Tim Haley.

Buchanan himself dismissed the uproar in California earlier in the day, saying what mattered is his showing with delegate votes.

But California, home to a fifth of the nation’s voters, is only the latest state to consider disaffiliating from the national party to protest Buchanan’s candidacy. State chapters in such states as Colorado and Kentucky have condemned Buchanan’s campaign and discussed splitting from the national party. And in Iowa this weekend, the state party’s office holders resigned in protest.

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