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Independent parties push for national coalition

Independent Party of Oregon and Minnesota Independence Party join forces to nominate a third-party presidential candidate

COURTESY PHOTO - Rob Harris is a Washington County adviser and strategist for the Independent Party of OregonThe Independent Party of Oregon and the Minnesota Independence Party have joined forces to organize a national coalition to nominate a third party candidate for president.

The parties plan to hold a national conference in late summer to select their nominee, said Sal Peralta, secretary of the IPO.

A decision by the Oregon Secretary of State to require the IPO to participate in the 2016 presidential primary was the impetus for forming the national coalition, Peralta said.

EO MEDIA GROUP“I think there are a lot of folks out there who are frustrated with the candidates the two major parties have produced this year, and a lot of voters are frustrated and don’t feel they’re represented,” Peralta said. “It should be no surprise to anyone that activists, donors and a lot of people would like to see a change. I think this really is the beginning of the third party movement.”

The IPO and IPM have identified about 14 other centrist parties around the nation they plan to invite to the conference, which will be similar to the Republican and Democratic conventions. The conference is likely to take place in late August after the Republican National Convention and before the deadline for a filing a candidate in Oregon, party leaders said. The deadline is Aug. 30.

"The Democratic and Republican parties are poised to nominate candidates with the highest negative poll ratings in history," said Rob Harris, a Washington County attorney who was central to the talks between the two parties. "With the two parties nominating historically unpopular candidates, this is a conversation that is long overdue. We believe voters are ready for a change.”

Phil Fuehrer, chairman of the Independent Party of Minnesota, said independents have attempted to form national third party coalitions in the past. IPM joined a coalition in 1996 to nominate third party presidential candidate Ross Perot who created the Reform Party. IPM cut ties with the Reform Party in early 2000 when the Reform Party nominated Pat Buchanan as its presidential nominee because IPM disagreed with the candidate’s social conservative agenda, Fuehrer said. Another attempt to form a national third party coalition in 2004 never panned out, he said.

This presidential election has shown that voters are interested in non-traditional candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, Fuehrer said.

“I realized now is the time to move forward with a national third party coalition and give it another try,” he said.

In addition to nominating a third party presidential candidate, the IPO and IPM plan to use the coalition to share best practices and improve ballot access for third parties, Peralta said.

The Independent Party of Oregon had initially tried to opt out of participating in the presidential primary. But earlier this spring, the Oregon secretary of state’s office informed the party that because of its size, it is required to offer a ballot line for the presidential primary.

The secretary of state recognized the IOP as a major political party in 2015 because its membership reached a threshold of 5 percent of voters registered in the state. The party has about 104,000 members.

The secretary of state has indicated the party is prohibited from listing primary candidates from other political parties, such as Democrat Bernie Sanders who have cross party appeal. Without its own primary candidates, the party was forced to offer members only a write-in option.

Oregon law also bars IPO from nominating a general election candidate who lost in the primary because of the state's so-called "sore loser" law, meaning Sanders could not the party's presidential nominee if he loses the Democratic primary to Hillary Clinton.

By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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