Discontent paves way for Reform Party

Chris Vetter

The current Democrat-Republican system has been in place since the United States elected Abraham Lincoln as president. Both parties have kept growing larger and gaining more power.
However, a growing sentiment against the two-party system in the last few years has led to the rise of the Reform Party in 1996.
This year’s general election will feature a number of Reform Party candidates in Minnesota, including Alan Shilepsky, who is running for the 59B seat in the state Legislature.
The district encompasses most of the Minneapolis campus, excluding Middlebrook Hall.
Shilepsky will face Democratic incumbent Phyllis Kahn and Republican challenger Tom Gromacki in the three-way general election on Nov. 5.
Shilepsky is a former Democrat who left the party after the 1994 election. “By that time, I was very disappointed with (senate candidate) Ann Wynia and Bill Clinton,” he said.
The Democrats have not tried to fix the future problems this country will soon face, Shilepsky said.
Shilepsky said Medicare and Social Security must be reformed so there will still be money available for today’s college students when they retire.
“We have entitlements that are not sustainable into the future,” he said. “And Democrats were not doing anything about it.”
Shilepsky said candidates from both major parties are more concerned with being re-elected than reforming bloated programs. Imposing term limits at the state and federal levels could change that, he said.
Term limits have been a plank in the Reform Party platform since its formation, and Shilepsky said they are a necessity today.
“Money favors the incumbents,” Shilepsky said. “Term limits is a blunt instrument to stop the power of incumbents.”
He noted that Kahn has represented district 59B for 24 years, and said that is too long to be in office.
Shilepsky said the Reform Party movement is growing, and more and more people are interested in him simply because he is not from one of the two major parties.
“Moderates were not brought into the 1994 campaign,” he said. “The average person on the street is very disconnected with politics, and a lot of people are actively against the two-party system.”
The Reform Party brings the large, moderate voice together, Shilepsky said. He said the party is not controlled by interest groups or the religious right, as other parties are.
“Can you teach the Democrats fiscal responsibility or teach the Republicans compassion? I don’t think you can do either,” Shilepsky said.
Despite his discontent, Shilepsky favors some measures championed by the two major parties. For example, he said it is time to pass a balanced budget amendment — a favorite Republican issue.
Balancing the budget now will lead to less debt for current students and their children, Shilepsky said.
“We have an inability to live within our means,” he said.
Shilepsky still believes in many Democratic programs and ideas as well, however.
“I definitely believe there is a role for government,” he said. “We need to have solid education funding and a social safety net.”
But not all government programs work and many are unhelpful, Shilepsky said, a fact that few Democrats will admit. “We must evaluate government programs,” he said. “We must make them accountable, and if they don’t work, we must get rid of them.”
Shilepsky said his belief in quality higher education would allow him to work better with the University than Kahn.
He said he will search for compromises with the University, without fighting with it, as Kahn did on the steam plant issue. Kahn opposed fixing the current steam plant located on the Mississippi River.
Kahn traditionally receives around 67 to 68 percent of the popular vote in the general election, but Shilepsky said he can win this year.
“Kahn is very unpopular within her own party,” Shilepsky said. “People are disenchanted with her.”
Shilepsky is a University of Wisconsin graduate and grew up in Connecticut. He has lived in Minnesota since 1978 and works as a computer database consultant, writing programs for several stores across the United States.
Shilepsky said this is a good year for the Reform Party. “This is a quite diverse district, where people traditionally vote Democrat,” he said. “This time, the people have a choice.”