Reform party, in the United States, political party founded in 1995 by H. Ross Perot as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties. The Reform party's aims originally included mandating high ethical standards for the president and Congress, balancing the budget, enacting term limits, enacting an equitable tax code, and achieving campaign finance and other electoral reforms. In 1996 the party nominated Perot for the presidency, with Patrick Choate as his running mate, but with 8% of the vote Perot did not fare as well as he had in 1992.
After Perot's defeat, the party lapsed into comparative obscurity. It revived with the first election of one of its candidates to a major office—ex–professional wrestler Jesse Ventura, who won the Minnesota governorship in 1998. Ventura became the party's de facto leader, but the Perot contingent continued to have a substantial influence on its policies and direction. The Perot faction was dealt a blow at the party's national convention in 1999 when the Ventura-backed candidate, John J. "Jack" Gargan, was elected chairman, but tensions between Perot and Ventura supporters led Ventura to resign from the party early in 2000 and resulted in Gargan's ouster as chairman. Tension continued into 2002, when several state parties broke their ties with the national party.
Although many of its members called the party centrist, its political ideology was not sharply defined by 1999, and a broad spectrum of candidates was considered for its 2000 presidential nomination. Patrick J. Buchanan, a strongly conservative polemicist and former Republican, captured much of the party's machine from the old guard aligned with Perot and secured the nomination. Buchanan chose African-American Ezola Foster as his running mate and moved the party to the extreme right on many issues. The Perot faction held their own convention and nominated John Hagelin for president, but Buchanan was recognized as the nominee by the Federal Election Commission. Both candidates fizzled at the polls, winning barely .5% of the vote combined. In 2004 the party endorsed independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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