(Ames, IA) Supporters of perennial presidential candidate Pat Buchanan Saturday gained a toehold in the Iowa Reform Party.

After twice before running for the Republican party’s presidential nomination, Buchanan is reportedly set to leave the GOP later this month to run as an independent candidate.

Over half of the 80 people who were seated Saturday as voters at the Iowa Reform Party’s state convention were Buchanan supporters.

“Everybody’s welcome, I don’t think we’re really going to have any serious problem,” Jim Hennager, the Iowa Reform Party’s 1998 Gubernatorial candidate, said of the “Buchanan Brigade’s” rush on his party.

“We’re kind of defensive not to be over-run and you know, try to be taken over because most of the people in here have been around since 1992, when Ross Perot first ran,” Hennager admitted.

State Representative Mike Cormack, a republican, is among Buchanan’s core supporters and he attended the Reform Party event, telling reporters Buchananites and Reform Party members have a “very similar make-up.”

“If there is going to be a successful third party bid, the Buchanan people have got to find out if there’s any sense of being welcomed, if there’s any sense of working together,” Cormack said. “I really think there will be. I think the make-up of the two groups is very similar on issues like NAFTA and political reform.”

Party founder Ross Perot was a strident opponent of the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying Americans would hear a “giant sucking sound” from Mexico as American jobs were lost to cheaper labor in Mexico.

Buchanan has made NAFTA a cornerstone of his own candidacy, even linking the treaty to social ills like the illegal drug trade.