Reform party

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H. Ross Perot, founder of Electronic Data Systems, Inc., ran for president in 1992 as an independent candidate and received 19 percent of the popular vote. In September 1995 Perot organized the Reform Party and was the party's 1996 presidential candidate. The Reform Party's ticket, which included Perot's running mate, Pat Choate, appeared on the ballot in every state and won eight percent of the vote.

Perot entered the 1992 presidential race in February 1992 and gradually gained substantial widespread support with his well-financed campaign and straight talk about government. Perot made campaign finance reform, national trade deficits, and the balancing of the federal budget the main issues in his campaign. In July Perot withdrew from the race when he received critical media coverage and lost his campaign manager, Edward J. Rollins. However, public support for his candidacy persisted, and Perot reentered the race in October with former navy admiral James B. Stockdale as his running mate.

In 1996 the Reform Party fielded several candidates in elections across the country. At the party's national convention, University of Denver professor and former Colorado governor Richard D. Lamm challenged Perot's nomination, but Perot won handily.

The Reform Party experienced some success in the late 1990s. In 1998, former professional wrestler Jesse Ventura was elected as the governor of Minnesota on the Reform Party ticket. A year later, conservative commentator pat buchanan quit the republican party to join the Reform Party.

Despite these gains, the party engaged in a civil war in 2000 that continued to have negative implications. Ventura quit the party in February 2000, calling it "dysfunctional." A month later, Choate and Jack Gargan, who had become chairman of the party on January 1, 2000, but was later voted out of office, asked a federal court to determine which of them should be named as the proper chairman. A federal district court in Virginia named Choate as chairman, but the internal strife continued. Buchanan and his supporters clashed with Perot loyalists over the nomination for the party's candidate for the 2000 presidential election. Buchanan was eventually nominated, but the problems with the party were evident in the election. Despite spending more than $38 million for the election, Buchanan received only 448,895 total votes.

further readings

Andryszewski, Tricia. 2000. The Reform Party: Ross Perot and Pat Buchanan. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press.

Herrnson, Paul S., and John C. Green, eds. 1998. Multiparty Politics in America. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Little-field.

Williams, Victor, and Alison M. Macdonald. 1994. "Rethinking Article II, Section 1 and Its Twelfth Amendment Restatement: Challenging Our Nation's Malapportioned, Undemocratic Presidential Election Systems." Marquette Law Review 77.


Election Campaign Financing; Independent Parties.

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Reform party, in the United States, political party founded in 1995 by H. Ross Perot as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties. The Reform party's aims originally included mandating high ethical standards for the president and Congress, balancing the budget, enacting term limits, enacting an equitable tax code, and achieving campaign finance and other electoral reforms. In 1996 the party nominated Perot for the presidency, with Patrick Choate as his running mate, but with 8% of the vote Perot did not fare as well as he had in 1992.

After Perot's defeat, the party lapsed into comparative obscurity. It revived with the first election of one of its candidates to a major office—ex–professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, who won the Minnesota governorship in 1998. Ventura became the party's de facto leader, but the Perot contingent continued to have a substantial influence on its policies and direction. The Perot faction was dealt a blow at the party's national convention in 1999 when the Ventura-backed candidate, John J. "Jack" Gargan, was elected chairman, but tensions between Perot and Ventura supporters led Ventura to resign from the party early in 2000 and resulted in Gargan's ouster as chairman. Tension continued into 2002, when several state parties broke their ties with the national party.

Although many of its members called the party centrist, its political ideology was not sharply defined by 1999, and a broad spectrum of candidates was considered for its 2000 presidential nomination. Patrick J. Buchanan, a strongly conservative polemicist and former Republican, captured much of the party's machine from the old guard aligned with Perot and secured the nomination. Buchanan chose African-American Ezola Foster as his running mate and moved the party to the extreme right on many issues. The Perot faction held their own convention and nominated John Hagelin for president, but Buchanan was recognized as the nominee by the Federal Election Commission. Both candidates fizzled at the polls, winning barely .5% of the vote combined. In 2004 the party endorsed independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.

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Reform party, in Canada: see Canadian Alliance.