Party Reforms Thinking

By Roman, Dave | The Florida Times Union, September 20, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Party Reforms Thinking

Roman, Dave, The Florida Times Union

Leave it to the Reform Party to be different.

The entire world is talking about the White House sex scandal,

and the Reform Party is focused on issues.

Ross Perot may be out of the picture, but the charts and graphs

are still with us.

After twice failing to capture the White House, the Reform

Party apparently has decided for the moment to focus on less

lofty goals. Reform leaders are sticking to the serious work of

building a political party from the ground up, or at least

closer to the ground than their previous efforts.

In Florida, that means shooting for a congressional seat and

trying to change the state Constitution.

After collecting more than 15,000 signed petitions to get

Reform Party candidate Jack Gargan on the ballot in Florida's

5th Congressional District, party officials are turning their

attention to a proposed amendment to the state Constitution

that would even the playing field for Gargan and other minor

party candidates.

Gargan, the first minor party candidate to qualify for a

congressional race in Florida, will face Rep. Karen Thurmam, a

Democrat, in the November election for the district that

stretches from Gainesville west to Pasco County and north along

Florida's Gulf Coast. The Republicans have no candidate.

"We've got to get Revision 11 to the Constitution passed to

make ballot access more fair to minority parties," said Janet

Stanko, who chairs the Duval County Reform Party. "We actually

had to sacrifice some candidates in order to qualify just one."

What Stanko means by that is Reform Party volunteers had to

give up helping other candidates to concentrate on the difficult

task of gathering enough signatures to get Gargan on the ballot.

Unlike a Republican or Democratic candidate, Gargan wasn't

allowed to simply pay a qualifying fee to get his name on the

ballot. Instead, Florida law required Gargan, a member of one

the "minor parties," to collect signatures from 3 percent of

registered voters in the 5th District.

What makes the law even more unfair to minor party candidates

is that Republicans and Democrats who choose to qualify by

petition rather than pay a fee need to collect signatures from

only 3 percent of the voters in their own parties.

Not surprisingly, such unequal treatment has united the state

leaders of the Reform Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party,

Natural Law Party, Socialist Party and American Reform Party in

an effort to pass Constitutional Revision 11.

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