The Circus Comes to the Bay State: A Look at the March 1st Primary

The Circus Comes to the Bay State: A Look at the March 1st Primary

With only a few weeks until voting begins for the 2016 presidential primaries, Secretary of the Commonwealth Francis Galvin’s office has released the official ballot listing for the March 1st Massachusetts primaries. Four parties currently meet the definition of a “major” political party in Massachusetts and thus are allowed to hold primaries. Of these four, one, Evan Falchuk’s United Independent Party, is not contesting national elections and thus is fielding no candidates. The other three contain a slew of candidates, including a handful of lesser-known politicos that lack mainstream coverage.

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

JIM GILMORE
Former Governor of Virginia, 2008 Republican Party Presidential Primary Candidate
DONALD J. TRUMP
Businessman, 2000 Reform Party Presidential Primary Candidate
TED CRUZ
Texas Senator, Former Texas Solicitor General
GEORGE PATAKI*
Lawyer, Former Governor of New York
BEN CARSON
Neurosurgeon
MIKE HUCKABEE
2008 Republican Party Presidential Primary Candidate, Former Arkansas Governor
RAND PAUL
Kentucky Senator, Ophthalmologist
CARLY FIORINA
Businesswoman, 2010 Republican Nominee for California U.S. Senate
RICK SANTORUM
2012 Republican Party presidential primary candidate, Former Pennsylvania Senator
CHRIS CHRISTIE
Governor of New Jersey, Former United States Attorney
MARCO RUBIO
Florida Senator, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
JEB BUSH
Businessman, Former Florida Governor
JOHN R. KASICH
Governor of Ohio, Former Ohio Congressman

*George Pataki dropped out December 28th but failed to file the paperwork necessary to remove his name from the ballot.

With 13 names on the ballot, the Republican primary will be the most intensely contested race to come out of the night. While Donald Trump currently retains a lead in Massachusetts based on robocalling polls, the Bay State still functions as an opportunity for some of the more moderate of the Trump alternatives to stake ground in a free-for-all in the event The Donald flounders.

Marco Rubio currently sits in second place with enough support to earn him proportional delegation, followed closely by Ted Cruz. There’s also a surprise John Kasich factor, as recent polling from the neighboring state of New Hampshire show a massive jump to 20% similar to Jon Huntsman in 2012. Whether or not that will translates into momentum for him in other moderate states will depend on how the field changes following February, but there’s a very real inner-party dissatisfaction with the Trump Juggernaut and “Super Tuesday” may be the only real chance of inflicting a lasting blow.

Massachusetts is also somewhat of a touchy subject for the national Republican Party, who may feel inclined to tread carefully. Something that many voters go without knowing is that Massachusetts has a two part process for selecting both Republican and Democratic delegates. The March 1st primary will establish who gets the delegates, but the April 30th caucus will establish who gets to become the delegates.

In 2012, a coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and Ron Paul supporters mounted a strong bid against Mitt Romney’s delegate slate and swept the caucuses with a super majority. In turn, the Massachusetts Republican Party engaged the “Ronald Reagan Liberty Slate” in a legal clash which led to their being disinfranchised. This, coupled with a delegate walk-out and the RNC rules changes– seen as unpopular by many conservatives and libertarians both, left a foul taste in the mouth of a number of the 2012 Republican delegates, and these same delegates, now primarily behind Rand Paul, are sure to be out in full-force for a rematch.

With 42 delegates at stake, 27 of which will be divided proportionally, this state will surely be seen as valuable for the wing of the Republican Party chanting for a brokered convention, as well as those seeking to change the party platform.

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

BERNIE SANDERS
Vermont Senator, Former Vermont Congressman
MARTIN O’MALLEY
Former Maryland Governor, Former Mayor of Baltimore
HILLARY CLINTON
Former Secretary of State, Former New York Senator
ROQUE “ROCKY” DE LA FUENTE
Businessman, 1992 Democratic Convention Delegate

The Democratic primary has had relatively little polling conducted in New England with the exception of New Hampshire. The few polls that have been conducted in Massachusetts, courtesy of Suffolk University and Overtime Politics, both show Clinton with a confident lead in the double digits. Looking at the results of the last three presidential elections, Massachusetts has traditionally sided with the “establishment” candidate as a final outcome.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton was able to parry Senator Barack Obama, and harking back to 2004, Howard Dean, an enthusiastic progressive stalwart, was able to barely lead John Kerry for a brief moment in time before his campaign crashed entering into the Massachusetts primary. Unfortunately for Bernie Sanders, who is shaping up to be the anti-establishment Democrat this cycle, he also lacks the youthfulness and excitement of both Obama and Dean.

Martin O’Malley, polling in the single digits, and businessman Roque De La Fuente, not even recognized by major polling firms, are unlikely to change their standings. If it’s any consolation, in the event of an O’Malley campaign suspension, cross-tabs show a 2nd choice preference to Sanders over Clinton. Considering the jaunty campaign organization that Sanders has been running, and running well, any additional volunteers and voters are sure to go a long way.

One thing that could impact the race in Sanders’ favor is the semi-open primary system that Massachusetts utilizes. Younger voters, first-time voters, and anti-establishment voters, the cornerstone of the Vermont senator’s constituency, are generally unenrolled voters. There’s a certain difficulty in polling such voters, as the sheer number of unenrolled voters in Massachusetts outnumbers both the Republicans and the Democrats. With that in mind, if turnout is low and unenrolled voters pull a Democratic ballot en masse, it’s realistic to believe that Sanders has the slimmest of chances. Regardless, with 59 of the 116 delegates up for grabs in Massachusetts based on proportional voting, Sanders could still walk away with a worthwhile haul.

GREEN-RAINBOW PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

SEDINAM KINAMO CHRISTIN MOYOWASIFZA CURRY
Green Party Activist
JILL STEIN
Physician, 2012 Green Party Presidential Nominee
WILLIAM P. KREML
Philosopher, Professor Emeritus of the University of South Carolina
KENT MESPLAY
Alternative Energy Advocate, 2012 Green Party Presidential Primary Candidate
DARRYL CHERNEY
Musician, Environmental Activist 

No scientific polling for the Green Party race has been conducted, but informal polling by individual green groups show a strong support for the 2012 standard bearer, Jill Stein. Stein, a Massachusetts resident, comes into the race being no stranger to the world of Bay State politics, having served the Green-Rainbow Party as a candidate for numerous offices, the most recent being their 2010 gubernatorial candidate. Her opponents, all green activists with established records of their own, lack the immediate organization and name recognition of Stein.

With the Republicans and Democrats actively engaged in contested primaries of their own, the Green-Rainbow ballot will unlikely be pulled by any unenrolled voters. With many nonpartisan progressive minded people rallying around Bernie Sanders, the race is sure to be decided purely by Green-Rainbow enrolled voters, many of whom would immediately recognize Stein. There’s little reason to see her not duplicate her almost 61 point victory from last cycle.

The Green Party awards state delegation seats based on numerous factors, including state recognition, so Massachusetts will be a valuable delegation for Stein going into the convention. In 2012, she won nine delegates of the eleven delegates in play and cinched the nomination.

UNITED INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

WRITE-IN

Evan Falchuk’s Massachusetts specific United Independent Party has been advocating its members to temporarily change their registration for the sake of voting in other party primaries. As a result, the UIP primary ballot is a blank sheet.

Hypothetically speaking, a write-in candidate could be able to get on the general ballot via a blank primary ballot by being both the highest vote earner and earning at minimum the amount of signatures needed to originally qualify. Galvin’s office has stated that in the case of a presidential primary, the lack of a formal nominating convention would render such an attempt to “hijack a presidential primary ballot to be moot.

Evan Falchuk’s voters tend to side with anti-establishment candidates, as seen with an informal poll conducted within the UIP membership. If the mentality of this small group of 100 UIP voters is to be seen as representative of the entire party, Bernie Sanders is the most likely to benefit from the Operation Chaos style crossover being advocated by Falchuk.

As of September of 2015, the United Independent Party has claimed to have seen considerable growth with over 11,000 members in Massachusetts, although this could be reminiscent of the American Independent Party of California’s success with voters who mistakenly think they’re enrolling as independent.

One major party that’s missing this cycle around is the Libertarian Party. While Gary Johnson had an impressive showing in the 2012 cycle, breaking one million votes nationally and earning .97% in the Bay State, this doesn’t translate into automatic ballot access, nor was there any effort made by Libertarians to establish automatic ballot access going into 2014.

This however doesn’t mean the Libertarian Party has abandoned Massachusetts. Last fall, Worcester was the site of their first presidential debate, hosting four of the one dozen serious Libertarian hopefuls, and Massachusetts remains a valuable state with a split delegation that in 2012 had voted for Johnson as much as it voted for R. Lee Wrights. In a race where Gary Johnson only needed 297 delegates to win in 2012, Massachusetts’ prospective 19 delegates are a worthwhile investment.

Interestingly, failing to achieve major party status is sometimes seen as a boon to the success of the Massachusetts Libertarians. Unlike their fellow major-minor party cohorts, the Green Party and the United Independent Party, Libertarians are currently classified as a designation and subject to PAC laws, which allows them to take advantage of lower filing fees and much less stringent ballot access requirements in a state with arguably some of the harsher laws in the country. This comes with an equally hefty cost however as Libertarians lose the ability to have instant ballot access going into presidential years, as well as their names scrubbed from the quick enrollment ballots at the Registry of Motor Vehicles- something that many individuals in Massachusetts use to enroll as first time voters.

Other than the race for the presidency, the Republicans, Democrats, and Green-Rainbows will also have elections for both state and local committee seats on the ballot. In 2015 Massachusetts became the 21st state to allow online voter enrollment and Massachusetts residents have until Feb. 10 to register to vote in the March 1st elections.

Libertarians Convene in Worcester; Discuss Rights, Race, and More

Libertarians Convene in Worcester; Discuss Rights, Race, and More

Packing into the dining hall of Tweed’s Restaurant and Pub in Worcester, Libertarian stalwarts from across the Commonwealth assembled over this past weekend to continue their push to change the Massachusetts state government.

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Convention attendees attentively listen to guest speaker Evan Falchuk.

With roughly two dozen total attendees, slightly less than the convention of last year, party loyalists met to discuss strategy, elect leadership, and meet with candidates. Topics on the agenda included state committee elections, reports and speeches from an assortment of speakers, and the discussion of adding a plank combating racism to the platform of the state party.

As attendees dined, party officials and state committee candidates gave speeches about the direction they most wanted to see the party move towards. For most, the goals to building a successful party were the same; recruit new volunteers, run a consistent slate of candidates, and continue to build upon an effective social media presence. For others, it was utilizing the current crop of volunteers in a much more effective and progressive manner.

Also in attendance was independent gubernatorial candidate, Evan Falchuk. Falchuk, one of the three independents in the five-way race to succeed out-going Governor Deval Patrick, sought to rally the support of the Libertarian Party behind his spirited bid.

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Evan Falchuk takes questions from convention-goers.

Discussing issues such as the second amendment, enforcing medical marijuana laws, clashing with the major party candidates in debates, and his choice in running-mate, Falchuk tried to appeal to libertarian sentiments. Falchuk also gave praise to the “combined efforts” of the Libertarian Party, Green-Rainbow Party, and Socialist Workers’ Party in challenging ballot access, citing them as his “inspiration for creating electoral reform.” before sharing a personal experience he had trying to do the same for his own “United Independent Party” label.

“Shortly after [organizing], someone sponsored a bill to raise the 50 registered members needed to be a party to 500 registered members.”, he said, “The Establishment does not like to be poked!”

Convention reception of Falchuk, while initially tepid, was met with an overall sense of approval. While not all members agreed to support Falchuk, or expressed uncertainty with his fledgling party, they did agree that electoral reform is long past overdue. One such member was party activist and state committeeman candidate Al Hopfmann, who said that “Libertarians shouldn’t yield to independents” but that he supports “the notion of a unified ballot access.”

The state committee election process, which followed later in the afternoon, was a simple, straight forward process, with each candidate being elected either unanimously or by super-majority.

While the convention went smoothly, one particular issue which created a spark was one of race. In the face of current events such as Ferguson, where a black youth was shot and killed by a police official, leading to one of the worst public outcries in recent history, the question of race has been more prevalent in the media spotlight than ever. In response to this, a plank to amend the party platform, appropriately titled “RACISM”, was brought up for discussion, and if passed would add “Individual racism is bad. Institutional racism is worse. Governmental racism is the worst of all.” to the official platform of the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts.

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Members spent hours debating the racism amendment.

The pragmatic and purist divide that so famously defines libertarian politics erupted, and in true libertarian spirit, there were as many opinions offered as there were members in attendance. A lot of the debate came from a concern over the perceived wording of the amendment, and how it was interpreted.

Arguments for changing the amendment ranged from concerns that it elevated certain types of racism, something seen as innately bad in all forms, above other types, to coming off as exclusive to those in the LGBT+ community, a community that also continues to face significant forms of discrimination.

Likewise, those opposed to changing the amendment did so on the basis that a person’s right to practice “freedom of association” should be protected, as well as the notion that while all racism is bad, it should be recognized that the government has been the largest and worst perpetrator of racism of all.

Discussion of the amendment would continue on for hours, before ultimately being edited to change the wording, such as “racism” to “discrimination”, and then tabled for further future discussion.

Joshua Katz, chairperson of the Connecticut Libertarian Party and elected Libertarian officeholder, served as the keynote speaker. A Libertarian elected in a partisan election, Katz is a bit of a rarity in the party, having edged out both a Democratic and Republican opponent in his 2013 run for Westbrook Planning Commission.

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Joshua Katz (L-CT) announces his interest in running in 2016.

Katz offered valuable insight to the party’s office hopefuls, reminding Libertarians that they need to “stay current” and discuss only current events, “cleanse the line” of individuals using the party label for their own gain, and most importantly to put in the time and effort. “If you have the same shoes after three months, you aren’t working hard enough.” he mused.

Katz also reminded the party of the significance of local government. “Ninety percent of government interaction is local”, he said, “Local government isn’t as “sexy” [and] this is why people [run] for state and federal over local [but] we need to occupy all levels of Government.”

Katz also had a message for Libertarians who were skeptical of why elected Libertarians just don’t start dismantling the system from day one.  “I’m an anarchist who holds political office” Katz said. “I can’t just eliminate government. I need to operate it in a way that’ll keep our people free and prosperous.”

Before Katz’s speech came to a finish, he used his speaking slot to drop even larger news. “I am forming an exploratory committee to consider a run for President in 2016”, he announced. This makes Katz the second candidate officially interested in the nomination for the Libertarian Party, behind New Hampshire activist Darryl Perry.

As the day drew to a close, interim-Chair George Phillies gave closing remarks, reminding Libertarians of the challenges they face and the role they play. “We are the Libertarian Party of Massachusetts” Phillies boomed, “We stand for peace, liberty, and prosperity [and] we are the people who are going to bring a successful future to Massachusetts.” Then raising his glass, he made a toast to Edward Snowden, the whistleblower famous for releasing classified documents back in 2013, and then to Dr. Douglas Butzier, the Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa who was recently killed in a plane crash.

The Libertarian Party was founded in Colorado in 1971, and is dedicated to “Minumum Government and Maximum Freedom.”