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Battle looming for control of Reform Party at National Convention

Ventura, Perot forces square off

July 22, 1999
Web posted at: 9:49 a.m. EDT (1349 GMT)

DEARBORN, Mich. (AllPolitics, July 22) -- On the eve of the national Reform Party convention, two major factions are engaging in a high-stakes battle to control the party's future.

The convention runs Friday, July 23 through Sunday, July 25.

The battle pits Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, the only statewide candidate to ever be elected on the Reform Party ticket, against the existing Reform Party leadership headed by Ross Perot. Russ Verney, the current Reform Party chairman and a Perot backer, is stepping down.

Ventura supports Jack Gargan, a retired financial consultant who ran unsuccessfully for Congress on the Reform Party ticket in 1998, to replace Verney as national chairman. Gargan would move the headquarters from Dallas to his home in Cedar Key, Florida.

Ventura says he will "remain reluctant to fully embrace the National Reform Party" if party leaders fail to elect Gargan at the 1999 convention.

Ventura's icy relations with the Perot camp started last year when he asked the Reform Party to provide money for his campaign and was turned down. Since then, he's been looking for ways to wrestle control of the party away from Perot.

Perot and Verney, meanwhile, want the party headquarters to remain in Dallas. They are supporting either Vice Chairwoman Patricia Benjamin or National Rules Chairman Tom McLaughlin as national chairs.

There is also considerable speculation about who the Reform Party may mount as a presidential candidate in 2000. Perot, who received 19 percent of the vote in 1992 and 8 percent in 1996, has so far not announced his plans. Ventura is encouraging former Connecticut governor Lowell Weicker to run for president. Weicker is said to be thinking about it, although he will not attend the Reform Party convention this year.

Other possibilities are real estate mogul Donald Trump, who said in a recent press release: "While I have not decided to become a candidate at this time, if the Reform Party nominated me, I would probably run and probably win."

Conservative GOP presidential contender Pat Buchanan has also strongly hinted that he might seek a third-party nomination, and met with Ventura in June.

The party will have more than $12 million in federal funds to spend on its presidential candidate next year, based on Perot's performance in the 1996 general election. But the party is on the ballot in only 20 states right now, having failed to get an average of 2 percent of the vote in 30 states in the 1998 elections. So any Reform Party presidential candidate would have to collect signatures to be on the ballot in all 50 states.

For continuous breaking news, see AP Newstream

Associated Press news material shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium.



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Thursday, July 22, 1999

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