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Election 2000: Reform Party Divided as Convention Gets Under Way in California

Aired August 10, 2000 - 2:04 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Opponents of Pat Buchanan accused him today of brown-shirt tactics as the Reform Party gathers for its nominating convention. The party is so divided, there's a chance that Buchanan's supporters may hold one convention while his opponents hold a separate one.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is in long beach, California.

Gary, are you in the middle of a messy display of politics?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's what you could call it, a messy display of politics. But other people say it's healthy political discourse.

But civil war has broken out among members of the Reform Party of the United States of America, and combatants have literally moved into two different battlefields as the convention starts today here in Long Beach, California.

We are in the city's convention center, and later today the two presidential candidates for this party, Pat Buchanan and John Hagelin, were both supposed to speak to the delegates inside this room. But now it looks like it will be just Buchanan who speaks in this room. Hagelin is going to speak in another room in this very same convention center that has been rented out by another wing of this party. Arguing and bickering among the two wings of the party has led to a split convention. There will be two conventions being held in Long Beach, California by the Reform Party.

Now, Pat Buchanan supporters started entering this convention center about 90 minutes ago chanting, go Pat, go, the mantra of the Pat Buchanan campaign of this year and previous years. They are the Buchanan brigade. They are critical of attempts to try to have him disqualified from the nomination process.

Now, they were met by John Hagelin supporters about 45 minutes ago. he is a physicist who heads a party called the Natural Law Party. He believes that meditation is one of the keys to solving the country's problems. Most Ross Perot supporters support him. Ross Perot does not want to run for the presidential nomination of the Reform Party this year.

Now, Hagelin talked with us a short time ago. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HAGELIN, REFORM PARTY PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We're going to reclaim our democracy from special interest dominance. Buchanan's party will have its own convention in the basement. What they will do, I cannot say. But the Reform Party of the United States, with the leadership of this party, with the leadership of most states, with the grassroots support base, with the Reform Party rank and file that have built this party over the past six years. We're moving forward now, a united party. There has been a catharsis, but we have been strengthened by it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Well, that is certainly arguable. Some people believe this party is in the process of self-destructing with all this arguing.

Now, the winning presidential candidate is supposed to get $12.6 million in federal matching funds. The Reform Party gets that money because Ross Perot got at least 5 percent of the popular vote in 1996. But what looks like what's going to happen is that two wings of the party are going to nominate two different candidates. So what happens to that $12.6 million? Well, it won't get split down the middle. What will happen is a fight that might end up in court.

This is Gary Tuchman, CNN, live in Long Beach, California.

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