Reform Party rejects Perot appeal to add ballot alternative

Monday, July 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Option would allow voters to voice dissatisfaction with current candidates

Settling on its ballot late Saturday night, the Reform Party rejected Ross Perot's wish to include a "no endorsement" option for foes of Pat Buchanan.

The party's nominations committee announced Sunday that two candidates have been certified for the ballot – Mr. Buchanan, the conservative commentator who left the Republican Party last fall to seek the Reform nomination, and Natural Law Party leader John Hagelin.

Nominations committee chairman Michael Farris of California said Mr. Perot's request to have the words "no endorsement" appear on the ballot in place of his name was not consistent with party rules.

The action denied Mr. Perot the influence he has long wielded over the party that grew out of his 1992 independent candidacy.

Throughout Mr. Buchanan's march through the states to get petitions signed and elect delegates to the party's national convention, Mr. Perot has remained silent about his own intentions and refused to comment on the Buchanan candidacy.

Late last week, however, surrogates revealed that volunteers had done the necessary work to qualify the Dallas businessman and two-time presidential candidate for the party's primary ballot. But because so many deadlines have passed, even if Mr. Perot won the nomination, he would appear on ballots in only about half the states.

As a result, Mr. Perot asked the nominations committee to offer the "no endorsement" option in lieu of his name, to give voters an opportunity to express dissatisfaction with candidates who, he said, "do not represent the principles" of the Reform Party.

Mr. Farris said the committee felt the request would have required a rules change.

If party members want to offer no endorsement, he said, delegates can override the primary results by a two-thirds vote on the convention floor.

Bay Buchanan, chief campaign strategist for her brother, said that's not going to happen because Buchanan forces will dominate the convention, scheduled for Aug. 10-13 in Long Beach, Calif.

Ballots for the nomination will be mailed beginning Wednesday. Votes may be cast by mail or electronically, and voting will conclude Aug. 9.

Mr. Farris is compiling a database for ballot distribution, which includes party members, people who signed petitions on behalf of candidates and registered voters who requested a ballot from state party chairmen. The deadline for getting on the list was Saturday.

The maneuvering over the primary ballot was the latest installment in a continuing battle over control and direction of the Reform Party, which has been based on Mr. Perot's demands for governmental accountability, political reform and America-first trade policies.
Perot loyalists fear that Mr. Buchanan will recast the party, which has been libertarian on such issues as abortion and homosexuality, in his more conservative mold.

Perot spokesman Russ Verney denied that the "no endorsement" effort was aimed at Mr. Buchanan. He told The New York Times, "This was not to support or oppose any one candidate. It was to allow members to clearly express their opinion, and a lot of them told Ross it was better to have no person as a candidate than the wrong person."

As for Mr. Buchanan, he said Sunday on CNN's Inside Edition, "Ross Perot is not running for the nomination, I am. People have a right to know where Pat Buchanan stands."

Mr. Hagelin, a physicist, ran for president as the nominee of the Natural Law Party in 1996, winning less than 1 percent of the vote. Mr. Buchanan received 3 million votes in the GOP primaries in 1996.