Ventura cuts away from Reform Party

Megan Boldt

After several scuffles with national Reform Party leaders, Gov. Jesse Ventura announced Friday he will no longer associate himself with the party.
“I’m disaffiliating with any involvement with the Reform Party anymore,” Ventura said.
The decision came after watching problems arise within the party for some time, Ventura said. He wants to focus on Minnesota’s party and continue to make the state a leader in the third-party movement.
The problems stem from months of conflicts between backers of Texas billionaire Ross Perot and those of Ventura, forming two wings of the party. During the past several months, there have been disputes about party leadership and the location of the party’s national convention, which was scheduled to be held in St. Paul.
Saturday’s national committee meeting depicted the Reform Party’s woes.
Amid chaos and angry speeches, national committee members voted to remove the current chairman Jack Gargan, a Ventura ally. The party convention will also no longer be held in St. Paul, but rather Long Beach, Calif.
In his announcement, Ventura expressed his desire for members of the state Reform Party to follow in his footsteps and distance themselves from national leaders aligned with Ross Perot, emphasizing it as a request — not an order.
“This party has never been a dictatorship of Jesse Ventura,” the governor said. The party held a central committee meeting Saturday to consider an emergency state convention to decide whether to switch alignments, which will be held March 4.
Ventura is not the only Reform Party member who is dissatisfied with the current national party. State party chairman Rick McCluhan is also frustrated with conflicts between the two factions.
“There’s nothing I’ve seen to give me any reason to think that the situation is going to be resolved in the near future,” McCluhan said.
Another party member said Ventura’s announcement came as no surprise.
James Gibson, a Reform Party candidate running for U.S. Sen. Rod Grams’ seat, said he wants to hear more discussion about the state party separating from the national party.
“I am inclined at this point to agree with Ventura’s recommendation for the Minnesota party to disaffiliate from the national,” Gibson said.
The questionable nature of party leaders, and therefore the party’s credibility, are the main criticisms, Gibson said.
“We’re looking for legitimacy,” he said.
If a special convention is held, it will be hard to determine what the decision among delegates will be, Gibson added.
“Certainly the governor will have a lot of sway, but it will be hard to predict the outcome,” he said.

Megan Boldt covers state government and welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3212.