Beyond Independence: The fourth, fifth or sixth parties in Minnesota’s 2010 election

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While Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner is making a strong third-party showing in opinion polls and enjoying substantial media attention, several fourth, fifth or sixth parties are struggling for any media time or recognition in Minnesota’s 2010 elections. 

The Independence Party is officially a “major party,” qualified under somewhat complicated Minnesota rules. It is likely to keep that status, as all major polls show Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner winning more than five percent of the vote in November, and that’s one of the ways to qualify as a major party.

Four other parties are running candidates for governor. Two other candidates are running against incumbent U.S. Congressmember Keith Ellison in the Fifth District, which includes Minneapolis and some suburbs.

The rest of the parties—and candidates

The Green Party formerly qualified for major party status in Minnesota, but does not in this election. It does still qualify as a minor party, and is the only recognized minor party.   Farheen Hakeem and Dan Dittmann are listed on the ballot as Green Party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, though they are not listed on the Green Party of Minnesota web page and did not seek endorsement in the Green Party’s May convention.

MS 200.02
Subd. 7.
Major political party.

(a) “Major political party” means a political party that maintains a party organization in the state, political division or precinct in question and that has presented at least one candidate for election to the office of:

(1) governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, or attorney general at the last preceding state general election for those offices; or

(2) presidential elector or U.S. senator at the last preceding state general election for presidential electors; and

whose candidate received votes in each county in that election and received votes from not less than five percent of the total number of individuals who voted in that election.

(b) “Major political party” also means a political party that maintains a party organization in the state, political subdivision, or precinct in question and that has presented at least 45 candidates for election to the office of state representative, 23 candidates for election to the office of state senator, four candidates for election to the office of representative in Congress, and one candidate for election to each of the following offices: governor and lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and state auditor, at the last preceding state general election for those offices.

(c) “Major political party” also means a political party that maintains a party organization in the state, political subdivision, or precinct in question and whose members present to the secretary of state at any time before the close of filing for the state partisan primary ballot a petition for a place on the state partisan primary ballot, which petition contains signatures of a number of the party members equal to at least five percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the preceding state general election.

(d) A political party whose candidate receives a sufficient number of votes at a state general election described in paragraph (a) or a political party that presents candidates at an election as required by paragraph (b) becomes a major political party as of January 1 following that election and retains its major party status for at least two state general elections even if the party fails to present a candidate who receives the number and percentage of votes required under paragraph (a) or fails to present candidates as required by paragraph (b) at subsequent state general elections.

(e) A major political party whose candidates fail to receive the number and percentage of votes required under paragraph (a) and that fails to present candidates as required by paragraph (b) at each of two consecutive state general elections described by paragraph (a) or (b), respectively, loses major party status as of December 31 following the later of the two consecutive state general elections.

Subd. 23.
Minor political party.

(a) “Minor political party” means a political party that has adopted a state constitution, designated a state party chair, held a state convention in the last two years, filed with the secretary of state no later than December 31 following the most recent state general election a certification that the party has met the foregoing requirements, and met the requirements of paragraph (b) or (e), as applicable.

(b) To be considered a minor party in all elections statewide, the political party must have presented at least one candidate for election to the office of:

(1) governor and lieutenant governor, secretary of state, state auditor, or attorney general, at the last preceding state general election for those offices; or

(2) presidential elector or U.S. senator at the preceding state general election for presidential electors; and

who received votes in each county that in the aggregate equal at least one percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the election, or its members must have presented to the secretary of state at any time before the close of filing for the state partisan primary ballot a nominating petition in a form prescribed by the secretary of state containing the signatures of party members in a number equal to at least one percent of the total number of individuals who voted in the preceding state general election.

(c) A political party whose candidate receives a sufficient number of votes at a state general election described in paragraph (b) becomes a minor political party as of January 1 following that election and retains its minor party status for at least two state general elections even if the party fails to present a candidate who receives the number and percentage of votes required under paragraph (b) at subsequent state general elections.  …

The Green Party of Minnesota web page lists endorsed candidates Annie Young for State Auditor, Dan Craige for House District 59B, and two candidates for seats on the Ramsey County Soil and Water Conservation District: Gary Carlson and Vaios Eleftheriou. The Green Party has had substantial support in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Minneapolis Councilmember Cam Gordon and Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board member Annie Young are both Green elected officials in Minneapolis.

Annie Young’s candidacy for state auditor is the Green Party of Minnesota’s big hope in this election. If Young succeeds in getting five percent of the votes for auditor, the Green Party could regain major party status in Minnesota.

The Grassroots Party is also on the ballot, with Chris Wright and Edwin H. Engelmann as its candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. Historically, the Grassroots Party has focused on legalization of marijuana, and that’s still their number one issue.

The Resource Party lists Linda S. Eno and Howard B. Hanson as its candidates for governor and lieutenant governor.

The Ecology Democracy Party candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are Ken Pentel and Erin Wallace. Pentel ran for governor with Green Party endorsement in 1998, 2002 and 2006, but founded a new party to run this year. 

Independents without a party

Lynne Torgerson is running against incumbent Keith Ellison in the Fifth Congressional District as “an independent.” She’s anti-abortion, pro-Israel, pro-gun, and has lots of other stands listed on her website

Michael James Cavlan also is running against Ellison. Cavlan is running as an “Independent Progressive.” Cavlan was formerly a Green Party member, and his email still identifies him as “greenpartymike,” but he is not running with Green Party endorsement.

Getting on the radar screen

Minor party candidates have difficulty getting media coverage for their campaigns. They are generally not included in the gubernatorial debates, or in other debates. Annie Young’s supporters protested her exclusion from the October 16 State Auditor debate. According to their press release:

Earlier this year the League of Women Voters Minnesota Education Fund published the following criteria for candidates: either (1) win the nomination of a party in the primary election, or (2) receive 5% in an independent, credible, state-wide professional poll.  However, since Minnesota’s minor parties are not allowed to participate in primary elections and there have been no polls for the State Auditor race, the two minor party candidates had no way of meeting either of the criteria.

“We contacted the executive director for the League at the beginning of September, to let her know this was a possibility and that they should consider either changing their criteria or fielding a poll of their own,” said Jim Ivey, Politics Chair of the Green Party of Minnesota. “Unfortunately, she refused to do anything and placed the blame on the media organizations that wouldn’t do any polling for this race.  In the end, even KSTP admitted that the only criterion being applied was the nomination by a major party.”

The four minor party gubernatorial candidates did get one opportunity to debate, on MPR’s Midday show on September 20.

CORRECTION: Farheen Hakeem notes in an email that she and Dan Dittmann did not seek Green Party endorsement in the May convention. Thanks for the clarification.