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PEROT DEFECTORS CREATE AMERICAN REFORM PARTY.

Byline: Rogers Worthington Chicago Tribune

Rumbles of a split in the still nascent Reform Party became reality this weekend when activists who favor independence from Ross Perot met in suburban Chicago and founded their own national party.

``We've created a political home for the millions of people who voted for Perot's ideas in '92 but could not bring themselves to vote for the man in '96,'' said Linda Witherspoon, a Tennessee medical doctor who chaired the three-day gathering.

The new name, the American Reform Party, could give them an advantageous spot on state ballots if it thrives. It is also likely to infuriate Reform Party regulars, who will have their founding convention in Kansas City later this month.

``Perot spent millions establishing this party. They are trying to get a free ride on what he spent. Let them get their own name,'' said Paul Truax, chairman of the Texas Reform Party, who is concerned that voters will be confused.

A split has been developing ever since September 1996, when representatives of the handful of states that formed parties after Perot's 1992 campaign met in Schaumburg to set plans in motion for a national party after Perot's anticipated defeat last November.

Many in the group were members of United We Stand America and had supported former Colorado governor Richard Lamm, who unsuccessfully competed with Perot for the Reform Party's presidential nomination in the summer of 1996.

They resented what they said was top-down management of the party from Dallas. In Illinois, additional resentment has grown over the presence in the party's governing structure of former supporters of Lenora Fulani and the largely defunct New Alliance Party.

The gulf widened last January when some 250 Reform Party state activists met in Nashville to lay the groundwork for a national organization. The ``Lammsters,'' as they were called, along with those who wanted to cut ties with Perot and his paid employees, found themselves shunted aside in favor of Perot loyalists. Witherspoon was one.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 6, 1997
Words:330
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