DFL chairman claims bill would hurt third parties

Josh Verges

A Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party official criticized a bill on Monday that he said would hurt third parties’ chances at major party status.

A Senate committee approved a bill Friday that would require parties to secure 5 percent of the vote for their candidates in a statewide election in November in order to keep their status as a major party.

Because the presidential election is the only statewide race, the bill would compel the state’s Green and Independence parties to run a presidential candidate.

DFL Party Chairman Mike Erlandson said he will push legislators to change the proposed bill.

“It’s not fair to encourage (third parties) to run token candidates,” he said.

Erlandson said state major party status should not be determined by national elections.

Leaders from the Minnesota Independence Party have said they want to focus on local elections.

“They’re going to force us to run a presidential candidate,” said Jim Moore, party chairman for the Minnesota Independence Party. “It’s something we do not want to do.”

Moore said the bill surprised him because an Independence Party candidate could take votes away from the Democratic candidate. Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis, wrote the bill.

District-level Independence Party candidates typically receive between 10 and 12 percent of the vote, Moore said.

Collecting 5 percent statewide for a candidate with no chance nationally would be almost impossible, he said.

The Green Party has not decided whether it will run a presidential candidate but party officials have said their chances of winning 5 percent in the state are not good.

Under the current law, parties can wait until 2006 to test major party status. By winning 5 percent in any of six statewide elections that year, the parties can keep major party status and the public funding that goes with it.

Responding to Higgins’ comments that the bill would ensure taxpayers’ money goes to viable candidates, Moore said that money would go toward major candidates’ campaigns anyway.

The Star Tribune reported that Higgins said major party status could be retained with 10 percent of the vote in any legislative race.

Moore said the 10 percent threshold applies only to the individual candidate in that election. The candidate who receives 10 percent would receive public funding but the party would not win major party status, he said.

North Carolina Sen. John Edwards won the Independence Party caucus, party officials reported Monday.

Edwards led each of the 11 instant runoff voting rounds, ultimately beating Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry with 53 percent of the vote. Kerry took 35 percent.

Edwards edged Kerry in first-choice results, 22 percent to 21 percent. President George W. Bush took 17 percent and write-in independent candidate Ralph Nader had 15 percent.