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CAMPAIGN 2000

A Surprise Pick for No. 2 on Reform Ticket

Diversity: Buchanan's choice of Ezola Foster, a black woman and longtime conservative who shares his views on virtually all issues, may prove to be a PR coup.

August 12, 2000|MEGAN GARVEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONG BEACH — In a slap at those who accuse him of bigotry and racism, Pat Buchanan on Friday named Ezola Foster, a black woman and longtime conservative activist, as his vice presidential running mate.

Buchanan's surprise choice may prove to be a public relations coup. In Foster, Buchanan seems to have found a political soul mate who shares his views on virtually everything, even down to his support for displaying the Confederate flag.

Foster, 62, is a retired typing teacher who has been prominent in Southern California's conservative circles but is little known nationally. She was a leader of the Proposition 187 effort, the initiative to deny illegal immigrants social services that was approved by California voters in 1994 but was later overturned.

She argues that God belongs back in the classroom and founded two conservative groups: Black Americans for Family Values and Stop Ebonics/Save Our Children.

While dueling Reform Party conventions continued to unfold just blocks from each other in downtown Long Beach, Buchanan appeared arm in arm with Foster at an outdoor news conference. He hailed her as "an American story" and recounted her rise from a large family living in poverty in the Deep South to a prominent conservative activist in Southern California.

Foster, a married mother of three who taught in South-Central Los Angeles schools for nearly 30 years, was first a Democrat, then a Republican and now is a registered Independent.

In 1995, Foster and her Family Values group filed a $155-million lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, the City Council, the Los Angeles Police Commission and several other public officials over the cancellation of former LAPD Officer Laurence Powell's "welcome home" dinner.

Powell was convicted of violating motorist Rodney G. King's civil rights during a beating, and the fund-raiser was planned by the Legal Affairs Council, a Washington-based conservative legal defense fund, to help pay his legal costs.

The choice of Foster, Buchanan said, would put an end to the "myths and nonsense" that his faction of the Reform Party is narrow-minded and noninclusive.

"This lady will be a tremendous benefit to our cause, our camp and our movement," he told reporters while supporters cheered.

The Reform Party, gathered in Long Beach to choose a presidential nominee who will receive $12.5 million in federal matching funds, remained bitterly split.

At the site paid for with $2.5 million in federal funds, delegates voted to make Buchanan their party's presidential nominee.

In brief remarks to the enthusiastic crowd, Buchanan rebuked the national press corps for writing him off earlier in the year. "You don't know this peasant army," he said. "Tomorrow night we're going to march out of Long Beach and take back America"

Party leaders threw out the results of the mail-in primary before they were even announced, saying there were too many questions about cheating and fraudulent voting for the results to be reliable.

Even so, the primary results were revealed later: 49,529 votes for Buchanan, 28,539 for John Hagelin.

Meanwhile, anti-Buchanan forces at their convention nominated Hagelin, a physicist and Natural Law Party leader, and will ask the Federal Election Commission to recognize him as the real Reform Party nominee entitled to the $12.5 million.

To that end, Hagelin supporters, largely made up of loyalists to party founder H. Ross Perot, have filed two complaints with the Federal Election Commission detailing what they say is election fraud on the part of the Buchanan campaign.

Under Reform Party rules, a primary vote can be overturned by a two-thirds majority from the convention floor. Jockeying for that advantage led to the party's bitter split earlier in the week, when anti-Buchanan party leaders Tuesday walked out of a key meeting held to decide who would control the seating of delegates.

News of Buchanan's vice presidential choice was greeted with loud applause at the gathering being held in the main exhibit hall at the convention center. But most delegates said they had never heard of Foster.

"I think Pat was out in the sun too long," one Nevada delegate said.

Foster said she was thrilled to be chosen. A longtime Buchanan supporter, she said she agrees with him on key issues.

In accepting Buchanan's invitation to be his running mate, Foster said the federal Department of Education should be dismantled and illegal immigration curtailed.

She also said she believes the Confederate flag "should be honored as part of our history and not as an excuse to make a racial issue out of it."

The Reform Party--and the Buchanan-Foster ticket in particular--welcomed all comers, Foster said.

However, she added: "Of course, if you're too leftist, you may not want to be with us."

At one point, with a chuckle, Buchanan said: "And the press says I'm hard-core."

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