Lamm seen seeking Reform nomination Ex-governor to declare next week, adviser says

July 04, 1996|By Paul West | Paul West,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Former Gov. Richard D. Lamm of Colorado plans to seek the presidential nomination of Ross Perot's Reform Party and will make a formal announcement next week, a key supporter said yesterday.

Lamm, a liberal Democrat who served three terms as governor, from 1975 to 1987, refused, through an aide, to confirm that he had decided to run.

But he has scheduled a news conference in Denver on Tuesday to declare his intentions and will travel to San Jose, Calif., the next day to meet with backers there, the aide said.

Mark Sturdevant, vice chairman of the Reform Party of California and a leading Lamm supporter, said that Lamm, 60, decided last week to enter the race.

Lamm has been flirting with a Reform Party candidacy for the past month.

However, he has said he did not want to challenge Perot for the nomination of the Texas billionaire's own party should Perot decide to run.

Ultimately, Lamm "realized that he needs to be willing to run against anyone, even a billionaire in his own party," said Sturdevant, who was among a group of advisers who met with Lamm in Denver last week to lay plans for the campaign.

An early supporter of Bill Clinton in 1992, Lamm broke with the president over what he has called Clinton's "demagoguing" on the issue of Medicare, a program that Lamm says needs drastic reform.

He plans to seek the third-party nomination on a program of fiscal, political, immigration, legal and health care reform.

Perot, whose party is to choose its nominee next month, has not said whether he will be a candidate.

His office in Dallas had no comment on Lamm's decision.

The two men met briefly last month, after Lamm gave an enthusiastically received speech to a California Reform Party conference in Los Angeles.

At the time, Perot was described as cool to the idea of a Lamm candidacy, and a party official said the Texan was neither encouraging nor discouraging Lamm.

Perot, who drew 19 percent of the vote as an independent candidate in 1992, has spent more than $1.5 million this year trying to put the Reform Party on the ballot in every state.

A recent national poll showed a Reform Party candidate drawing about 10 percent of the vote in a three-way contest with President Clinton and Bob Dole.

The Reform Party is canvassing its membership, estimated at 1.3 million nationwide, to determine which potential candidates should be invited to address its two-part August nominating convention.

Only the names of Perot and Lamm are included in the mail survey, though write-ins are permitted.

Party officials are expected to provide further details of the selection process next week. Once the mail survey is tallied, candidates who receive sufficient support will be asked whether they are interested in the nomination.

Formal nominating speeches will be delivered at an Aug. 11 convention in Long Beach, Calif., and Reform Party members will then have several days to vote, by mail and electronically.

The winner will deliver his acceptance speech Aug. 18 in Valley Forge, Pa.

Many Reform Party members would like to see someone other than Perot become the standard-bearer this year, to legitimize their effort as a genuine third-party movement and not merely Perot's vehicle.

Michael Farris, the chairman of the California Reform Party, insisted that, even if Perot decided to run, Lamm would have a chance of gaining the nomination. "These people want a new party; it's not just people who follow Ross Perot," said Farris, who plans to remain neutral.

Lamm, who makes no bones about the long-shot nature of his latest political venture, said last month that he had been warning Reform Party members about the risks they faced in nominating him.

"I've published a lot of articles that say a lot of controversial stuff," he said. "I have a recent article called 'Better Health Care Through Rationing.' "

Once known as "Governor Gloom," he is still remembered for his 1984 line that terminally ill people had "a duty to die and get out of the way" because of the excessive cost of keeping them alive.

He said recently in Washington that his son is not supporting his presidential bid. Nor is his ex-wife, he added, out of fear that his third-party candidacy might help elect Dole, whose anti-abortion views she opposes.

"It's a good point," he said. "I can understand that."

Lamm's strong support for balancing the budget and reducing Social Security and Medicare benefits for well-off recipients, as well as his call for restricting legal immigration, drew enthusiastic applause from Reform Party members in California last month.

But he has acknowledged that one of the biggest hurdles he faces is raising the $20 million he believes he would need to wage an effective campaign.

The Federal Election Commission has ruled that the Reform Party would be entitled to $32 million in taxpayer money if Perot is its candidate, based on his performance as a candidate in 1992.

But the FEC did not say whether any Reform nominee other than Perot would be eligible.

Sturdevant said Lamm would accept no campaign contributions from political action committees but would instead wage a grass-roots fund-raising drive.

Perot is expected to initiate the fund-raising effort with a speech at the Aug. 18 convention, which is to be carried nationally over cable television.

Pub Date: 7/04/96

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