The Reform Party's Virginia affiliate hopes to return to the national stage by drafting Jim Webb as its presidential standard bearer.
A post on the Virginia Reform Party website states the organization "believes America deserves better leadership. This is why we have started Draft Webb 2016."
Webb, a former senator from Virginia and Democratic presidential candidate, is an "independent voice of reason that restores honor and integrity to the White House," the announcement says. The Reform Party, which Ross Perot formed in 1995 after previously running for president as an Independent, seeks to place Webb on the ballot in "50 states, and to create as much public support as possible to convince him to run as a true independent reformer."
Virginia Reform Party Chairman Michael Hackmer did not respond to a request for comment.
Webb communication's director, Craig Crawford, told AMI Newswire the campaign has "met with many independent groups," including the Reform Party, "as part of our feasibility study on ballot access for a possible run."
Crawford said, "It is flattering they are pursuing this draft effort, but no decision has been made about how or whether to go forward with an independent candidacy."
Webb dropped his bid for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in late October, having raised little money and barely registering in the polls. In his speech at the National Press Club announcing his withdrawal, Webb left the door open to an independent run.
"I'm thinking about all my options," he said, adding that his decision on whether to mount an independent presidential bid "depends on what kind of support I receive."
On its site, the party seeks to gather visitor information to conduct ballot access drives throughout the country.
Richard Winger, editor of Ballot Access News, told AMI Newswire Webb would be well advised to accept the Reform Party's nomination, as well of the nominations of other third party groups, "because only someone who is seeking the nomination of a party can receive primary season matching funds."
The Reform Party was a high flyer in the often marginal third party universe during the 1990s. Perot attracted more than 8 million votes in the 1996 presidential contest, and Reform candidate Jesse Ventura was elected governor of Minnesota in 1998.
But the Reformers had less success with subsequent candidates, including Pat Buchanan and Ralph Nader; and in 2005, the party appeared to splinter as rival factions took legal action against each other. If the Draft Webb effort succeeded, the Reform Party would have its first prominent national candidate since it supported Nader in 2004. In 2012, the Party's presidential ticket had ballot access in one state -- Florida -- and received 962 votes.
Still, Winger noted that third parties already have ballot access in several states.
"There are centrist ballot-qualified parties in 11 states, not counting the Reform Party, who could plausibly nominate Webb; and that would save him a lot of money and effort in petitioning in those states," said Winger.
Winger identified Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina as states where third parties have such access. He also said there are "ballot-qualified parties in Alaska and California that one could not say have been 'centrist,' but which are mostly at loose ends with no political purpose and virtually abandoned."
In states such as Maryland and Texas, "it is easier to get a new party on the ballot than to qualify as an independent presidential candidate," Winger said.
"Pragmatic presidential candidates," he said, "who run outside the two major parties always, repeat always, choose the easier of the two methods in each state."
The national Reform Party grew out of Perot's 1992 and 1996 presidential bids. The party now has three declared candidates for its presidential nomination: psychologist Lynn Kahn, 2012 Reform Party vice presidential nominee Kenneth Cross and Reform Party member Ed Chlapowski.