Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Attempted Party Takeover Nearly Passed Unnoticed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Attempted Party Takeover Nearly Passed Unnoticed

Article excerpt

Like most unsuccessful coups, the attempted takeover of the

Reform Party of Florida nearly passed unnoticed.

The party founded by Ross Perot as an alternative to

traditional Republican and Democratic Party politics has for

months been embroiled in an internal struggle between competing

political factions.

One side is loyal to Perot, who started the third party

movement during his 1992 presidential bid and pursued it further

in his 1996 campaign.

The other side is generally antiPerot, appreciative of the

multimillionaire's efforts to start a new party but determined

that he step aside and let them call the shots.

In Florida, where the Reform Party is about 2,000 strong, Perot

loyalists are in control.

The anti-Perot faction's attempted coup illustrates some of the

difficulties of building a new political party, especially one

like the Reform Party, which is generally dominated by people

disgusted with politics as usual.

Last week, Circuit Judge Michael Weatherby delivered a blow to

the principal plotter in the coup. He issued a temporary

injunction effectively barring Jacksonville's Howard Johnson

from using the Reform Party name or claiming to be a party

official.

Johnson, a political gadfly from the anti-Perot faction, has

been hammering away at state party leaders for months, even

before he was registered in the party.

He demanded that Reform Party Chairman Carl Owenby appear

before a tribunal, then announced Owenby's removal from office.

But Johnson did not reveal he was the only member of the

tribunal.

He sent letters seeking contributions from party activists,

though not authorized to do so, and did not report receiving

checks, which he later returned, to the elections officials.

He filed papers to organize a Duval County Reform Party chapter

when he was still chairman of the Independence Party, listing

three others as officers in the new chapter who were not

registered in the Reform Party.

He claimed to be Florida's chairman pro tem in an application

to register the state party with the Federal Election

Commission. …

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