7 Moderates Discuss Alternatives to Major Parties : Politics: Tsongas, Bradley among ‘radical center’ holding secret talks. Report says presidential run possible.

<i> From Associated Press</i>

Seven prominent politicians, including Sen. Bill Bradley (D-N.J.) and former Sen. Paul E. Tsongas (D-Mass.), have been secretly discussing the nation’s problems and the political solutions for them.

Tsongas said the seven make up a kind of “radical center” that feels “disenfranchised at this point” by current major party trends.

The group shares “a similar philosophy that is socially inclusive, fiscally conservative,” Tsongas told the Associated Press in a broadcast interview Sunday.

He said the group is “talking about the fact that the two major parties seem to be pandering, in one case to the left, in another case to the right, and leaving a huge vacuum in the center.”


Meanwhile, a published report said the seven--five Democrats and two independents--are planning an independent presidential campaign.

The group has discussed in conference calls the need for a new voice to challenge the two-party system, according to Time magazine.

Tsongas downplayed the magazine report.

“It may well be at the end of the day all this group does is articulate on paper where this country should be going,” he said, “but I would not read very much into this. It’s just an early date for this group.”

A spokesman for Bradley said the seven have been discussing issues but not an independent presidential candidacy.

“I don’t think the discussions have focused on that, but I don’t know that for a fact,” said Bernie Toon, Bradley’s chief of staff.

In editions on sale today, Time identified the five Democrats as Bradley, Tsongas, former Sen. Gary Hart of Colorado, former Colorado Gov. Richard D. Lamm and former Rep. Timothy J. Penny of Minnesota. The two independents are former Connecticut Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. and Maine Gov. Angus King.

Dennis Bailey, a spokesman for King, said the governor had participated with the group in “just general discussions about problem-solving and the direction of the country” but not in talks about a presidential race.

“I can’t say anything about it. I just can’t,” said Lamm, when asked for comment.

None of the others were available for comment.

“There is a center in this country--whether you call it the passionate center, the radical center, the sensible center--that is basically socially inclusive, fiscally conservative, pro-environment, pro-campaign reform, and those people feel rather disenfranchised at this point,” Tsongas said.

Time claimed that the group’s next meeting, set for Sunday, is likely to focus on which of the seven might run for President.