When the Reform Party of the United States gathered for its national convention ten days ago, the group was a sliver of its former self, the rowdy renegade third party founded by Ross Perot in 1995 after the Texas billionaire received almost 20 percent of the vote in his 1992 independent run for president.
Perot didn't make the confab, nor did Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura (who won his seat as a member of the Reform Party, then moved to the Independence Party). And even though the convention was held in Denver, also missing in action was former Colorado governor Richard Lamm, who'd challenged Perot for the presidential nomination in 1996.
"I gave up on that after Pat Buchanan," Lamm says of the Reform Party's controversial candidate for president in 2000.
(Lamm wasn't the only one: Half of the party's fifty state affiliates left after Buchanan became the Reform party's nominee, largely in protest of his arch-conservative platform -- not to mention his claims to the party's $12.5 million in federal presidential funds secured by Perot's 8 percent of the vote in 1996.)
Yet Lamm, who left the Colorado governor's mansion sixteen years ago but remains front and center on national issues by currently hosting Channel 12's election debates and heading up the University of Denver's Center for Public Policy, hasn't given up on reform. "I really do believe America needs a new political party," he says. "Both major parties have been captured by special interests."
After his experience of eight years ago, though, he's not sure he's the one to lead the fight. "That needs someone more alpha male than I," Lamm says.
Still, Lamm looks pretty alpha on the Reform Party's official Web site, where founding party member Beverly Kidder offers this account of his challenge:
"Lamm gave a rousing speech at the California Reform Party State Convention in June of 1996. Ross Perot had already told the members that he would run for president again if they wanted him. But Lamm impressed enough people that a group formed to ask him to run on the ticket. Two days before Perot was to be a guest on the Larry King show to announce his candidacy, Richard Lamm appeared on the show and announced his candidacy. He got support from those who wanted 'anyone but Perot.' He did not lack for press coverage. Lamm received banner headlines every time he complained about the primary process or his treatment by Ross Perot. But it was his positions that lost the primary for him. Lamm's platform was for free trade, and it was verified that he had never even joined the party. Through the whole process, he had remained a registered Democrat."
And he's still one today, for lack of a viable option. "They really don't want to throw away their vote," Lamm says of other voters who, like him, reluctantly stick with one of the two main parties rather than going with a third-party candidate. "They just hold their noses."
Mouthing off: At least they're not wiping spit off their faces, as a California radio talk-show host found himself doing after Gary Copeland, that state's Libertarian Party candidate for governor, spat on him.
Compared to that, Colorado's campaign seems like a garden party. Even the most colorful of this state's candidates, Libertarian Rick Stanley, insists that for all the controversial coverage, he's a serious contender for U.S. Senate. "The rest is one little bit of Rick Stanley," he says. In the U.S. Senate race, the rest of Stanley is currently polling at 6 percent against Democrat challenger Tom Strickland and incumbent Republican Wayne Allard.
Besides, there are plenty of strange animals in the major parties, too. Ken Chlouber, the Republican state senator who's challenging Democrat incumbent Diana DeGette for her 1st congressional district seat, bought his "burro brigade" to town this past weekend for a series of fundraisers. When Chlouber, a miner from Leadville in his other life, isn't engaged in political races, he actually races with burros.
And Wes McKinley, the rancher whose mule, Marvin, got an endorsement when McKinley ran as an independent for the 4th congressional district slot back in 1996, is now back with the Democratic donkeys. He'll be in Denver this week to raise money for his campaign for Colorado House District 64, at a fundraiser that promises the chance to "have your picture taken on a live, long-horn steer!"
As opposed to all of the jackasses already in the Colorado Legislature.
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Spy guys: Promoter Barry Fey came up clean Tuesday, when Denver Police Department officials reported that there was no spy file on him (not one they'd cop to, anyway). But Fey wasn't so stunned that he failed to notice private security guards on duty in DPD headquarters. "What's with that?" laughed Fey.
That, according to police chief Gerry Whitman, is a cost-saving and security-promoting measure made possible when the renovated DPD headquarters joined in the City and County Building's contract with Burns security.