Manchester, NH (CNSNews.com) - Fearing a takeover by supporters of Patrick J. Buchanan, the Reform Party of New Hampshire canceled its weekend convention.
Party spokesman John Talbot told CNSNews.com the decision to postpone the Saturday event, involving as many as 200 party loyalists, was made after national officials of Buchanan's presidential effort made known their intentions of "coming out in force," and putting up candidates for two of the party's state posts.
"We found it to be an awkward way to start off a relationship," Talbot said.
According to Talbot, Buchanan supporters, most of whom have played no role in the state's Reform Party, were intent on electing their own supporters to the chairmanship of the party's structure in both of the state's congressional districts. Those chairmen will play an active role in selecting delegates to the party's national convention, from which a presidential candidate will emerge.
Talbot said local officials extended invitations to the weekend event, to key Buchanan staffers, including the opportunity to join the Reform Party at the door. The invitation was followed by one or more calls from Buchanan's national office, during which Reform Party officials were told Buchanan supporters would be "coming out in force," and that they had every intention of winning the two critical state offices.
Buchanan supporters did not return numerous telephone calls seeking comment.
"We were concerned about the stuffing of the ballot boxes," Talbot said. As a result, the convention was postponed until a yet to be decided future date.
According to Talbot, Buchanan supporters "refused to stand down or back off...they were doing what was in their best interests. I think they now know they overstepped their boundaries."
Without directly criticizing Buchanan by name, Talbot claimed that some of Buchanan's senior advisors saw the convention as "an opportunity to try to put individuals of their choosing into state leadership positions in the Reform Party of New Hampshire."
"It is our understanding that these individuals are not and never were members of the Reform Party of New Hampshire, have never held office in our organization and have not done any volunteer work with the Reform Party," said Talbot. "It is unknown whether their allegiance is to building a statewide Reform Party and helping to elect state and local representatives, or only in seeking to elect a particular presidential candidate."
"We will use this hiatus as an opportunity to reach out to Buchanan supporters and get them involved with the Reform Party," Talbot added.
Talbot said local Reform Party members are concerned about more than electing a president. "We're trying to build a party, beyond the election of a president. If we allow the Buchanan people to do this, we're sending the wrong signal to others."
"We think it is too soon in the nominating process for the people of any one candidate to control important positions in our organization, " he added.
Asked if Buchanan will fit in the Reform Party, given his strong social views, Talbot said the former columnist, television commentator and White House aide holds several beliefs that are consistent with member's beliefs. Those include positions on international trade, including NAFTA and GATT; campaign reform; immigration policy and ethics and government.
"Nationally the Reform Party is much more liberal that Pat on certain social issues, but in New Hampshire, our members could line up with Pat on some of those social issues," Talbot said.
Despite differences on key social issues, Talbot said, "We will bend over backwards to assure that the process is a fair one to all potential candidates."
"Pat is a very capable candidate who can draw attention to the issues on which we agree...he should be allowed into the debates, so we can see just how many votes he can get," Talbot added.
While encouraging Buchanan to seek the Reform Party's presidential nod, Talbot insisted the likelihood of the former Nixon and Reagan advisor winning the top spot was far from a certainty. "There could be a battle between Buchanan and (Minnesota Governor Jesse) Ventura. That remains to be seen."