Manchester, NH (CNSNews.com) - Less than a week after Pat Buchanan bolted the Republican Party to seek the Reform Party's presidential nomination, a group of his Granite State supporters did some bolting of their own Saturday, when 18 Pat-backers walked out of the New Hampshire Reform Party's second annual convention.
The meeting was so chaotic and raucous, party officials called local police to restore order. Three officers showed up, but they never intervened, preferring to catch the action from a doorway near the stage of the city library's auditorium.
Shortly after declaring their independence from a party to which some did not even belong, the 18 Buchananites -- led by New England Campaign Director Shelly Uscinski -- served notice that they didn't need the 50 or so Reform Party regulars who attended the session.
Instead, the Buchanan supporters gathered in a nearby room at the convention site and decided to create a rival group to the Reform Party of New Hampshire and its limited membership. The new group will be called the Granite State Reform Party of New Hampshire.
The Buchanan supporters elected party officers and four delegates to the Reform Party's national convention (set for August in Long Beach, California), and they also pledged to get the 10,000 signatures needed to put their newly created Granite State Reform Party of New Hampshire on the state's general election ballot.
Uscinski defends the Buchanan supporters' decision to bolt: She contends her group was kept from voting on a change in the party's by-laws and in the election of state party officers.
"We were shouted down and told we couldn't vote or speak," she insisted. "We were told we couldn't join the party. Voices were raised and people were shouting...they were corrupt in the way they were doing the party's business. It was a shame. So we went to the other room and started our own Reform Party."
Asked about the call to police, Uscinski responded, "I almost think they had planned to do it."
But New Hampshire Reform Party spokesman John Talbot tells a different story. Talbot contends Uscinski made "threatening and bullying" telephone calls to party officials on Friday, saying she intended to disrupt the meeting "if we did not assure her that Pat Buchanan would lock up two of our five national delegate positions immediately."
Said Talbot, "That was totally unacceptable, because to assure a fair and open process to all potential candidates, our delegates are not chosen until May 25th."
"The insistence and outright gall of the Buchanan organization, demanding that we give them two of our delegate positions, is outrageous...we're not about to do that at this early date, just because he was the first one to the party," Talbot said. "The Reform Party of New Hampshire bent over backwards to be accommodating to the Buchanan supporters. It's unfortunate that his New England representative has decided, before we even had a chance to work with her, to act so stupidly."
This was not the first conflict involving the Reform Party and the Buchanan Brigade. Fearing what he termed "a takeover," Talbot and other party officials had already canceled the state convention, originally set for September 25, hoping to work out differences with Uscinski and other Buchanan supporters.
If the weekend event was any indication, that effort failed badly.
"I'm assuming they are political novices, who don't understand the process," Uscinski said, "We were never looking for an endorsement of Pat Buchanan. We know there are other candidates in the race. An endorsement was not what we were seeking."