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Libertarians nominate Browne

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ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — The Tennessee investment banker who represented the Libertarian Party four years ago has been selected to run again for the presidency.

Harry Browne acknowledged he has scant chance of ever moving into the White House, but the 67-year-old Nashville man said he hoped his campaign would reinvigorate his ailing party.

The more than 1,000 Libertarians meeting at their party's national convention required a second ballot to pick a vice presidential candidate. Party spokesman Bill Winter said Browne's running mate would be named Monday.

"We're the only political party that's offering to set you free," said Browne, who didn't vote before 1992, when his wife suggested he run for the nation's top office. "It's the most powerful political message in the world."

The Libertarian Party, which advocates individual liberties over expansive and expensive government programs, claims 30,000 dues-paying members.

The party in recent years has lacked the vote-getting power of either the Reform or the Green Party.

REFORM PARTY: Pat Buchanan and John Hagelin will be the only names on the ballot when voting for the Reform Party's presidential nomination begins this week, with no protest option available to those unhappy with what they see as Buchanan's moves to take over the party.

The Reform Party's presidential nominations committee met Saturday and verified that Buchanan, a former Republican, and Hagelin, of the Natural Law Party, qualified for the party's nationwide, mail-in primary, according to Michael Farris, chairman of the panel.

But it decided against including a "no endorsement" option, which had been sought by party founder Ross Perot, who is said to be dissatisfied with Buchanan's candidacy.

The Texas billionaire's decision Friday to sit out this presidential campaign removed a potential hurdle for Buchanan. Voting begins Wednesday when ballots are mailed to party members and citizens who requested them.

As the Libertarians struggle to be taken seriously, many supporters said they back Browne because he presents a polished and professional face.

"I think he makes us look very good," said Rebecca Breeden, a 24-year-old delegate from Baton Rouge, La. "He gives the party a great image. I don't believe the other candidates can be taken very seriously."

Browne, the author of a dozen books including one called "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World," advocates a 12-step program that he says will do away with income taxes, Social Security, the war on drugs and federal welfare.

Candidates vying for the vice presidential slot were: Ken Krawchuk, a computer programmer from Cheltenham, Pa.; Art Olivier, an engineer, freelance Web site developer and mayor of Bellflower, Calif.; Gail Lightfoot, a retired registered nurse from Arroyo Grande, Calif.; and Steve Kubby of Squaw Valley, Calif., the Libertarians' 1998 candidate for governor of California.

Kubby, a backer of the medical marijuana law Californians' passed in 1996, ran fourth in the last governor's race. He made headlines last year when he and his wife were arrested and charged with possession-for-sale after authorities found 300 marijuana plants in their home. The case has not yet gone to trial.

The Libertarians had a sophisticated media operation on display at the convention in an Anaheim hotel, with spokesmen producing news releases about developments just moments after they occurred.

Signs of the party's more ragtag, marginal side were evident, too. Some delegates wore tri-cornered hats, headdresses patterned in stars and stripes and lapel pins in the shape of marijuana leaves. One delegate sported a polka-dot top hat and a name tag identifying himself as "Starchild."

Browne topped a field that included: Don Gorman of Deerfield, N.H., a former four-term New Hampshire state legislator; Barry Hess, a salesman from Phoenix; David Hollist, a charter bus driver from Alta Loma, Calif.; and Jacob Hornberger, the president of the Future of Freedom Foundation, a libertarian think tank in Fairfax, Va.

Browne finished with 493 of the 878 delegate votes. A "none of the above" vote was allowed, and that option got 23 votes.