June 2, 1996 in Nation/World

Perot’s New Party Holds First Statewide Convention Former Colorado Gov. Lamm Testing Waters For Presidential Nomination

Tom Raum Associated Press
 

Former Colorado Gov. Richard D. Lamm signaled an interest Saturday in seeking the presidential nomination of Ross Perot’s new Reform Party “under the right circumstances” and if Perot himself doesn’t run.

Moments after Lamm made the surprise declaration during a California Reform Party convention, supporters were circulating petitions to put his name in nomination.

Perot, whom associates suggested was encouraging such a move by Lamm, remained publicly noncommittal on a specific candidate but brought the house down as he told about 1,000 of his loyalists: “We can do it.”

“Thank you for showing America that it is possible to create a new political party,” he told the first statewide convention of his fledgling party. “It usually takes two years (in California). You did it in 18 days.

“We’ll learn a lot from this first meeting that we’ll be able to pass on to the other 49 states,” he said. “We’re creating a new party because a majority of the American people want a new party.” Perot said.

“When you’re the underdog there’s nowhere to go but up. That’s where we are now.”

But, he added: “Under no circumstances should we become discouraged or cynical. What we have to do can be done.”

Lamm, a featured speaker at the weekend convention, told Perot loyalists they should not be afraid to take politically unpopular stands such as favoring cuts in both Social Security and Medicare.

“We must touch that third rail,” Lamm said. Democrats and Republicans have long suggested cutting Social Security would be tantamount to political electrocution, as in touching a subway’s third rail.

Lamm has been mentioned as a possible candidate, but in the past has brushed off such suggestions. For the first time, he told reporters that such a campaign would definitely interest him, so long as Perot himself chose not to run.

Perot, who ran in 1992 and was Saturday’s final speaker, has said he had no strong desires to run again himself but would accept his party’s draft if no one else stepped forward.

And he was still the clear favorite of the crowd. His entrance into the hall was greeted by chants of “We want Ross, We want Ross.”

But Lamm’s emergence as a possible alternate candidate to Perot was favorably received by members of the audience and by Perot lieutenants.

Asked whether he was prepared to step forward and be that candidate, Lamm said, “Yes, under the right circumstances, if somebody showed me it would not embarrass the Reform Party.”


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