Minnesota Reform Party votes yes for disaffiliation

by Pete Johnson

Echoing the infighting that has marred the Reform Party-USA, the Minnesota Reform Party held a special convention Saturday in which members voted 151-23 to disaffiliate with the national organization.
The state party, which also voted 131-10 to change its name back to the Minnesota Independence Party, has recently seen its political energy expended on the growing fight within the national party. But fighting between members of the state party also dominated Saturday’s meeting.
“We were spending all our time fighting with these people, and we no longer care to,” said Minnesota planning director Dean Barkley. “This sends a strong message to (national-party chairman) Russ Verney and his executive committee, who brought this upon themselves.”
Delegate Craig Carrol agreed, saying, “The national party is about to shoot itself in the head. I don’t think we should be a part of that.”
Supporters of disaffiliation had their share of opponents, with many members making pleas to stay affiliated and ignore the example of Gov. Jesse Ventura, who announced his disaffiliation from the national party last month.
“This party is a direct descendant of Minnesotans for Perot,” said Tom LaCrosse of Minneapolis. “If we believe that we can take this government back, we must be with the national (party), however disruptive, disorganized and confused it is at the moment.”
Some opponents questioned the party’s reasons for disaffiliation, including pressure from Ventura and the controlling tactics of Perot.
“We’ve had problems at the national level ever since Ventura got elected,” said Charlie Martens of St. Paul. “The minute he got in there, he started tearing down the party, cutting it down verbally.”
Other party members had even stronger words for those who favored disaffiliation.
“These schemers could not refute or silence the message, so they started desecrating the messenger,” said Minneapolis resident Will Donaghy, referring to Perot and his message. “These are the people who now want to restart the Independence Party in Minnesota.”
Delegate Harvey Havir, who only moments before had stormed out of the auditorium, yelled, “Fuck this vote, and fuck this party. They closed discussion and took our vote away, like a communist party.”
Regardless of the pointed rhetoric, both the Reform Party-USA and the new Independence Party face uncertain futures in the chaotic world of third-party politics.
“I don’t see the U.S. reform party heading anywhere. I think that they’re going to fail and cease to exist November of this year,” said Independence Party chairman Rick McCluhan.
But at least two members, Donaghy and Cedric Scofield of Newport, plan to organize a new Reform Party affiliate.
Supporting those efforts, delegate June Varner said, “I’m not a member of the Independence Party, I’m a member of the Reform Party.”