Reform Party takes different approach to politics

Matt Kuhns

The Reform Party sees special interests corrupting politics and wants to change that by offering voters an alternative to the two traditional parties.

“The top difference [between the Reform party and others] is the votes of our people are not bought by PAC groups,” said Iowa Reform Party Chairman Ronn Young.

Jim Hennager, Reform Party candidate for governor, said because the Reform Party does not depend on special interests for money, they can introduce ideas that the other parties cannot.

For example, Hennager said the major parties are hesitant to push some environmental issues because they take money from the chemical industry.

The Reform Party also is different in its approach to taxes.

“We want to run the state like a business,” Young said.

He said unlike the other candidates for governor, Hennager’s plan is to downsize Iowa government, cutting the state budget 5 percent every year.

Young said Hennager’s plan includes a 1 percent reduction in sales tax as a “shot in the arm” for the state’s economy.

One other major difference between the Reform Party and the two traditional parties is its decidedly moderate stance.

Young said while Republicans are far to the right and Democrats far to the left, the Reform Party is in “the big middle.”

For instance, Young said the Reform Party takes no stance on abortion, and he believes the issue should be left to the people as a whole to decide.

The Reform Party also has a unique perspective on youth.

Young said the two major parties have turned young people away from politics by setting policy from the top, whereas the Reform Party focuses on the grass-roots level.

As a result, the Reform Party has “a lot of appeal for young people,” he said.

Hennager said it is important to treat young people as adults, starting with establishing a consistent age for when adulthood is reached.

Young said the current system is hypocritical because it sets adulthood at age 18 but withholds some rights until age 21.

This sends youth a message that they are not trusted, Hennager said. He said as a result, young people drink underage in order to prove they can handle it.

The Iowa Reform Party developed from the United We Stand group assembled by Ross Perot in 1992.

In 1995, a poll of Iowa United We Stand members revealed strong support for forming a third party, and at a state convention in Ames, members established the United Citizens Party, which later changed its name to the Reform Party.

However, getting established has not been easy for the party.

Young said the biggest challenge to the Iowa Reform Party has been exclusion by the media, particularly in central Iowa.

Only one of the gubernatorial debates included Hennager, and even then he was not mentioned in Associated Press coverage of the event, Young said.

Hennager said he has never been interviewed by the Des Moines Register either.

Young said he does not expect the same level of media coverage that the larger parties receive, but he said the Reform Party should not be ignored completely.

Despite the challenges facing the Reform Party, members remain focused on their goals.

Young said the party’s first goal is to receive 2 percent or more in the upcoming election in order to maintain easy access to ballots rather than needing petitions.

He said its next goal is to have one person elected to a state-level office.

Hennager said if the Reform Party could get even a few members elected to the state legislature, they could have a major impact if the rest of the legislature is closely divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Young said he does not expect any of the Reform Party’s candidates to be elected this year, since most of them have very little political experience.

Meanwhile, the Iowa Reform Party remains determined to reshape politics, with or without media attention.

“We’re not going away,” Young said.