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Buchanan vs. Trump Reform Party Fight Brewing

by Jack Breibart

"I'm talking about the whole megillah"
(AR) -- It is beginning to look more and more as if there will be a battle between New York developer Donald Trump and disgruntled Republican Pat Buchanan for the Reform Party presidential nomination.

Trump announced October 8 that he has formed an exploratory committee to check out the wisdom of running for president on the Reform Party ticket.

"The question to me is not whether I can win the Reform Party nomination -- I know I can beat Buchanan," Trump said on the "Larry King" show, "but whether a Reform Party candidate can win" the presidency, he said.

"The only thing that could interest me is if I could win. I'm not talking about the nomination, I'm talking about the whole megillah," Trump told the Associated Press earlier in the day. He says he will make up his mind early next year.

Buchanan has been grabbing ultra media attention as he flirts with the idea of escaping the Republican race and running as a Reformer.

Buchanan met October 8 in Dallas with the Reform Party's outgoing national chairman, Russ Verney, and said he is "leaning toward" running as a third party candidate.

Verney said he explained the party's nominating process to Buchanan, who he says has a "huge decision in front of him."

Despite the public stance of doubt by Buchanan, his supporters reportedly already have been working behind-the-scenes work to ease their way into state party operation. Attorney Matt Sawyer, an attorney who specializes in ballot access, also was added to the Buchanan team last week.

Sawyer previously worked in Ross Perot's campaigns for the presidency, a tipoff that the Reform Party's founder will be in Buchanan's corner in a battle against Trump.

Reports that the George W. Bush campaign was encouraging Trump to run to pull votes away from the Democrats
Trump has been urged to run by the Reform Party's highest elected official, Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura, who is out of favor with the Perot wing of the party. Ventura and Trump met and had dinner together earlier this month in New York.

Ventura has continually said that he will serve out his term in Minnesota and is not interested in running for the presidency in 2000.

Richard Winger, editor of the Ballot Access News and a close follower of alternate parties, said he doesn't think there is any question Buchanan will enter the Reform Party race.

"That could be some race -- Buchanan vs. Trump," he said.

The young Reform Party has had only one contested nomination. Perot was unchallenged in 1992, but in 1996, he trounced former Colorado governor Richard Lamm.

Lamm claimed that Perot had led him to believe that he would not be challenged for the nomination.

Perot and Verney both since have charged that Lamm was a plant of the Democrats, and Verney has used Lamm as a warning to potential candidates.

Vereney was asked on a TV show recently what he thought of reports that the George W. Bush campaign was encouraging Trump to run to pull votes away from the Democrats.

"Well, in 1996, we had a fellow (Lamm) that just got out of the Lincoln bedroom (at the invitation of the Clintons) and the sheets hadn't cooled, and he came to run for the nomination here, complained every day, went away, and hasn't helped us a day since. We expect dirty tricks that will come along. We're ready to face up with it and deal with it if that happen. But if Donald Trump seriously makes an investment and a commitment in this party, we'd be glad to have him."

Meanwhile last week, the five-person Reform Party Nominating Committee, which will play a major role in the months ahead in determining eligible candidates, sent posted an advisory reminding candidates that "individuals who wish to be recognized officially as candidates ... must file a letter of intent with the committee."

Committee Chairman Michael Farris said the release of the letter at this time was not brought on by the flood of media attention, but he does have some advice for any potential candidate.

"There is no real 'deadline' for declaring, certainly no hard and fast one established by the committee," Farris told the American Reporter by telephone from Sherman Oaks, Calif.

"However, if a candidate doesn't really declare and then start the petitioning process by February or March when you really need to start to get on the ballot in Texas and North Carolina, their candidacy will certainly be at a disadvantage relative to others." he said.

Farris said he has had contact with some possible candidates seeking information on the nominating process but he would not disclose them.

"I've been told that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be president. Nevertheless, I am one"
The Reform Party has a lot to offer a candidate, but it doesn't come without a price.

There will be close to $12.6 million in federal funds for the candidate, earned on the basis of Perot's showing in the 1996 election. There also will be spots on the ballot in probably 21 states, which account for 234 electoral votes.. The party has qualified in 19 states and has decisions pending in Maine and Florida. That leaves 304 electoral votes in unqualified states.

Verney estimates the value of the ballot access as $6 million.

As for the other 29 states and the District of Columbia, the party is leaving that up to the potential candidates.

"Any candidate who would come to the Reform Party without being prepared to make a significant investment in securing ballot access for the party should be viewed as an opportunist," Verney says.

Farris thinks that one of the issues of a Reform primary could be how committed the candidates are in helping to build the party rather than being in for the short run.

At the minimum, a candidate's investment will be to get or make a serious effort to get on the ballot in enough states whose electoral votes add up to a majority of the remaining 304 votes or 153 votes.

"I personally want our nominee to get on all the ballots;" said Farris. "However, we couldn't place that high a restriction on candidates. What if a candidate missed getting on the ballot in one state by merely 100 signatures, for example?"

Farris said that on November 1, his committee will give details of the "specific requirements a candidate must achieve to get credit for a given state."

Once qualified for the Reform Party primary -- which will run from July to August -- candidates will face one of the most unusual elections in American political history.

Members of the Reform Party and those names on petitions gathered by the candidates for their state ballot access will receive ballots. Anybody else -- even Democrats or Republicans who have voted in their own primaries -- can request and receive ballots.

This could expose the voting to ballot stuffing by the major parties and also by a candidate spending large amounts of money to gather signatures. Roger Stone, an adviser to Trump, has said the New York tycoon has a data base of 6 million people he could call on to ask for votes in the Reform primary.

Farris downplayed the possibility of ballot stuffing. "It could happen but I don't think it will."

Meanwhile, there is already one declared Reform Party candidate, Bob Bowman, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and now Presiding Bishop of the United Catholic Church in Melbourne, Fla.

"I've been told that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to be president," Bowman said in declaring for the nomination. "Nevertheless, I am one. I'm also a career military officer, the father of seven children, and the grandfather of nineteen. I've been a corporate slave, a song-and-dance man, a stuffy college professor, a fighter pilot, a radio talk show host, and a husband to the same wonderful woman for 43 years. One thing I have never ever been is a politician. Heck, I'm not even a lawyer."

Jack Breibart is a former Managing Editor/News of the San Francisco Chronicle

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Albion Monitor October 18, 1999 (

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