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Reform Party Begins Drive to Organize

TIMES POLITICAL WRITER

The fledging Reform Party of California gathers in Los Angeles today with the goal of organizing itself into a statewide political force without the benefit of Ross Perot’s money.

But Perot, the Texas billionaire who bankrolled the formation of the party last fall, will be on hand as the featured speaker at the Reform Party’s first statewide conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Also on the agenda are Richard D. Lamm, who served three terms as Democratic governor of Colorado; Assemblyman Brian Setencich of Fresno, the Republican outcast who served briefly as speaker of the California Assembly, and Assemblyman Dominic L. Cortese of San Jose, who bolted from the Democratic Party this year to join the Reform Party, the first elected official to do so.

About 1,000 party members were expected to attend the two-day event, said state party Chairman Michael Farris of Thousand Oaks. Today is devoted to speechmaking. Sunday’s agenda consists of workshops, primarily about political organization.

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“The focus is on organizing at the local level,” said Farris, a former Republican who works in the field of oceanic physics. “It’s an introduction to grass-roots politics.”

But Farris said he expects considerable discussion about the selection of a Reform Party presidential candidate, scheduled to occur during a national convention in late summer.

Lamm has been mentioned by some as a potential candidate, but he has said he does not intend to pursue the party’s nomination. Perot declared last fall that he did not create the party as a vehicle for another Perot candidacy in 1996, but he has indicated that he might succumb to a draft by party members if no other candidate emerges.

Perot ran as an independent in 1992 and collected 21% of the presidential vote in California.

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Perot announced in September that he was forming a new political party. His first goal was to sign up the 89,000 voters he needed to qualify the party for the ballot in California. Defying considerable skepticism, Perot and his organization, United We Stand America, won the ballot slot in 18 days.

Perot financed the qualification effort, but now that the Reform Party is an official political organization, it is subject to legal limits on contributions.


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