ST. PAUL -- Minnesota Reform Party leaders approved a special state convention March 4 in St. Paul to consider disaffiliating from the national party and reclaiming the Independence Party name.
The state central committee on Saturday voted 59-15 minutes after hearing from Gov. Jesse Ventura, who urged them to ''Use your conscience. I will hold no grudges because the decision I made was my conscience.''
Ventura reiterated what he said Friday, that the national party hurts his efforts to build a moderate state party.
''I encourage you to sever the relationship with the national party because it's going to be detrimental to us all along,'' he said.
Despite a couple of interruptions, the tone in Minnesota was considerably more civil than in Nashville, Tenn., where national convention members voted in a raucous meeting to oust Chairman Jack Gargan, a Ventura ally.
Ventura calmly told the Minnesota group that if they didn't disaffiliate, he would become an independent like Maine Gov. Angus King. Someone shouted, ''Is that a threat?''
Ventura responded with, ''Please let me finish.''
When the governor complained about receiving no help in his election from founder Ross Perot, state platform Chairman Alan Shilepsky asked what he had done to help a Reform Party legislative candidate. Ventura said his job was to run the state, not campaign.
Shilepsky tried to ask other questions before someone shouted, ''Shut up, Alan.''
Ventura took no questions, but shared with reporters his thoughts of relief immediately after he announced Friday he would leave the party, likening it to a ''yoke coming off my shoulders. I felt good.''
Then he said he recalled the quotation from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., ''Free at last. Great God almighty, free at last.''
Of the action in Nashville, Ventura said, ''It saddens me, but it doesn't surprise me. That's why I made the decision I made yesterday.''
He noted that Gargan had won the chairmanship ''fair and square'' in July at the national convention in Dearborn, Mich.
Factions supporting Ventura and Perot have sparred for months over everything from the site of the party's presidential nominating convention, its philosophical direction, its procedures and even whether certain national committee members were qualified to be present in Nashville.
Dan Goldman of Plymouth attended the event in Minnesota while his wife Diane, former Minnesota chairwoman, went to Nashville. Goldman said it didn't matter to him whether the party remained affiliated with the national group.
''We have to take care of our own business here,'' he said. ''Our business here is getting people elected to the Legislature.''
Vice Chairman Buford Johnson of Pequot Lakes opposed breaking from the national group now. ''I think we're jumping faster than we're thinking,'' he said, but added what he wants is ''a good, independent party. I don't care what we call it.''
Part of the reason Ventura suggested a split was the potential for former conservative Republican Pat Buchanan to be the party's presidential nominee.
Buchanan state Chairwoman Moonyeen Bongaards called the governor's action ''hilarious.''
''Our macho-guy governor has turned tail and run before the battle has begun,'' she said, ''As far as I'm concerned and the campaign is concerned, I don't think it's a bad thing.''
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