Pitchfork Pat's Reform Grab

buchanan, reform nomination
AP
In Texas over the weekend and across the country, Pat Buchanan's backers are ousting old time Reform Party members, who are now having seconds thoughts about inviting the conservative commentator into their party to seek their presidential nomination, reports CBS News Correspondent Phil Jones.

"When you're invited to somebody's house and you evict them before dinner is served, evict the host before dinner is served, you don't make friends that way," said former national party chairman Russell Verney, an aide to party founder Ross Perot.

In a coup described by longtime Texas Reform Party leaders as a "storming by the Pat Buchanan brigade," several Perot supporters in Houston were unseated Saturday after hours of infighting before a meeting of state party leaders.

"The Buchanan brigade has unseated the black and Hispanic delegates of Bexar County," said Paul Truax, founder of the Reform Party of Texas and a national committee member. "Apart from being highly illegal, this is a terrible political blunder."

As Buchanan's backers fought off Perot loyalists in Texas, Buchanan himself was on hand in Langhorne, Pa., to accept the nomination of the Pennsylvania Reform Party. The conservative commentator accepted the nomination amid chants of "Go, Pat, Go!" from 150 delegates after giving a speech in which he renewed calls for tougher trade restrictions on China.

In Texas, Buchanan supporters faced a more hostile environment. Ousted delegates from Bexar and Dallas said they were unseated because Buchanan supporters wanted more power. Buchanan supporters said they were simply trying to follow the rules.

"I've just seen the most stupid political move of my life," said Truax. He said he plans to contact the Texas Election Commission on Monday to report violations by Buchanan supporters and to investigate whether violations of the Voting Rights Act occurred.

But Tim Haley, director of Buchanan's presidential campaign, said: "I think those accusations are outrageous. These people are just trying to go by the rules."

The Reform Party has always focused on economic and trade issues, avoiding divisive social issues like abortion. Now, party loyalists are accusing Buchanan of hijacking the party for his own agenda.

"It's about right to life and after the election it will be the right to life political party in the country," said Verney.

In an exclusive interview with CBS News on Sunday, Buchanan was adamant on where he's headed.

"Our goal is to create a new broad populist traditionalist conservative party, but there's no doubt if I'm gonna lead that party it's gonna have respect for the right to life and it's gonna want to put together a Supreme Court that respects religious traditions and the right to life in America," he said.

That's exactly that kind of rhetoric that has many in the party frightened. A few days ago, Iowa Reform Party chair Shery Blue resigned.

"We're afraid that he (Buchanan) is going to bring his social issues into the platform and change it."

And New Jersey Reform Party chairman Ira Goodman is so fed up he's boycotting this week's party convention.

"These people are radicals, they want radical change within our organization."

But Buchanan said, "I think some of these folks have decided that what they have and what they hold onto, their small fiefdoms, are more important that this larger agenda that we see."

And Buchanan predicts that by the party's August national convention, it will be as united and organized as the Rockettes in Radio City Music Hall.

Perot loyalists have also launched a petition drive to get Perot's name on the Reform Party ballot. Aides to Perot say the Texas billionaire has not said what he would do if wins the nomination.