Positioning itself firmly against Pat Buchanan, the New York State branch of the Reform Party endorsed a little-known physicist and college profesor for president Thursday.
"I never knew being so far behind was such an asset," joked John Hagelin, who hopes to wrest the nomination from front-runner Buchanan in the nationwide, mail-in primary that started this week.
Since party founder Ross Perot has decided against running, Hagelin has emerged as the sole challenger to Buchanan for the nomination and $12.6 million in federal election funds.
"It's a referendum on what the character of the Reform Party will be," said Lenora Fulani, a leader of the New York Independence Party, the state affiliate of the national Reform Party. "Pat Buchanan wound up with a narrow and ideological campaign."
Fulani, a left-wing activist, had forged a bizarre political alliance with the socially conservative Buchanan before withdrawing her support. She endorsed Hagelin last month.
Hagelin, 46, is a founder of the Natural Law Party, which grew out of the teachings of Transcendental Meditation leader Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He holds a doctorate in physics from Harvard University and lives in Fairfield, Iowa, where he is a professor at the Maharishi University of Management.
He advocates preventive health care, the elimination of political action committees and the application of scientific thinking to policy problems.
The Reform Party's mail-in primary continues through the nominating convention Aug. 10-13 in Long Beach, Calif.