LONG BEACH, Calif. - Reform Party presidential candidate Pat Buchanan on Friday introduced Ezola Foster, a black Los Angeles teacher and conservative political activist, as his running mate.
``I think this lady will be a tremendous benefit to our cause, to our campaign and our movement,'' Buchanan told a news conference.
Foster, a teacher and administrator for 33 years, was a supporter of California proposition 187, the 1984 ballot measure that sought to deny most forms of state aid to illegal immigrants. That measure passed but was later invalidated by the courts.
Buchanan made his announcement outside the Reform Party convention hall, site of an intraparty battle between Buchanan and supporters of Ross Perot, the party founder who has stayed out of the fray this year.
Buchanan opponents are holding their own parallel convention, supporting nuclear physicist John Hagelin for the presidential nomination.
Buchanan, who quit the Republican Party last year, has declared himself the real nominee and plans an acceptance speech Saturday.
The conservative former commentator described Foster, a mother of three, as a ``lifelong Christian'' who had been both a Republican and a Democrat. She's now a registered independent. In 1996, Foster was a co-chair of Buchanan's presidential campaign.
``We don't care what party you came from, where you've been and who you're running away from,'' Buchanan said. ``Come with us - you're welcome in our party.''
Foster, 62, told a boisterous rally that the Reform Party is ``here to do what's right for all Americans. And we are here to support a man who recognizes America is a republic, not an empire.''
She ran unsuccessfully for a California State Assembly in both 1984 and 1986 against Maxine Waters, now a Democratic member of Congress. After the second defeat, Foster founded an organization called Black-Americans for Family Values that fought such things as references to homosexuality in public schools. She has also protested use of government money to promote safe sex anti-AIDS programs.
As for racial issues, Foster said Friday she believed ``the Confederate flag is to be honored as a part of our history'' and that she was only concerned with ``the race to the White House.''
Reconciliation talks between the Reform Party factions have broken down, all but ensuring that federal election officials - and perhaps eventually a court - will decide the outcome of the twin nominations.
The Perot-Hagelin wing filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission contending that Buchanan's forces illegally rigged the process and seeking to block Buchanan from getting the $12.5 million the government will award the nominee.
Hagelin supporters on Friday filed a second complaint on the same grounds based on more detailed information and allegations from faction leader Jim Mangia.
Perot followers reject Buchanan's conservative views on such moral issues as abortion, saying such matters are not part of the party's agenda.
The former Republican further alienated them with a fiery statement Thursday denouncing ``social and moral decline and cultural decadence.''
``Rampant homosexuality, a sign of cultural decadence and moral decline from Rome to Weimar, is celebrated, as our first lady parades up Fifth Avenue to share her 'pride' in a lifestyle ruinous to body and soul alike,'' Buchanan said.
He warned of an America in which ``abortions replace tonsil removals as America's most common medical procedure,'' and lambasted Hollywood for serving up ``vulgar'' entertainment.
Next door, delegates to the splinter convention received his remarks with alarm.
``I believe Buchanan is a good man but the wrong man for the Reform Party, which was founded on libertarian principles,'' said Paul Wilson, a delegate from Indianapolis.
Hagelin appeared to respond to Buchanan in his own speech to 1,000 people, including more than two dozen party activists from New York who contended they were expelled from Buchanan's convention.
The path to victory is ``not through a message of exclusivity and intolerance, not through embroiling ourselves in divisive social issues,'' he said. ``But by putting forth an inclusive message, a broad-based platform of commonsense reforms that the overwhelming majority of people support.''
While Buchanan focused on America's moral decline, Hagelin offered proposals on a litany of issues, including campaign-finance reform, preventive health care, clean energy, teachers' salaries and foreign policy.