WASHINGTON -- With his chairmanship of the Reform Party upheld by a federal judge, Pat Choate is moving to stabilize the fractured third party with plans to raise $1 million in the next several months and to reach out to his vanquished rival.
''The door is open,'' Choate said after Monday's ruling. ''Our goals are the same.''
But there was no sign that Jack Gargan, who fought Choate for the chairmanship, would accept the gesture. In an interview minutes after U.S. District Judge Norman K. Moon ordered a halt to his activities, Gargan vowed to leave the party and take his supporters with him.
''This is no party, this is somebody's little fiefdom,'' said Gargan, an ally of Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who recently quit the party. ''There will be a huge exodus from the party at this point.''
Moon ruling Monday that the chairmanship belongs to Choate, Ross Perot's 1996 presidential running mate, ended a tug-of-war that had weakened the party's standing in the 2000 campaign.
''This will now allow us to go forth and mount a competitive race for the White House this fall,'' Choate said after the ruling in Lynchburg, Va.
Today, he was announcing plans to move the party's headquarters to Washington and to raise $1 million by the time of the August convention.
Moon ordered Gargan and Treasurer Ronn Young to stop all activities relating to those positions, including soliciting donations, spending the party's money, operating an official Web site and planning a convention. The party would suffer ''irreparable injury'' if the two men continued, the judge said.
Gargan said he would leave the party after 10 years helping build it.
A rowdy meeting of party leaders in Nashville, Tenn., last month elected Choate to replace Gargan. But Gargan argued in court that the meeting was convened illegally and that the vote to oust him and install Choate was invalid.
Moon's ruling resolves the dispute between Gargan and Choate, but there are other problems.
The departure of the party's most popular elected leader, Ventura, and the void created by Perot's silence on political issues have left it with a patchwork of state organizations caught up in a variety of fights waged in courtrooms and cyberspace.
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