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Starting a New Political Party and Filing for Office

 

Chapter Four

The story has gotten ahead of itself. Let’s go back to the beginning of July. At that time, I was still mulling over the future of Metro Property Rights Action Committee and contemplating its possible extension into electoral politics. A “ballot” had just been sent to the members asking what they thought about this. My opinion was that we had to act more forcefully or become irrelevant to Minneapolis politics. I wrote to the members: “Eventually, we must back candidates who win elective office. And we need our identity stamped on those candidates or on a political party that puts forth those candidates beyond what the Democrats, Republicans, or an existing third party can offer. Then people will see that we have influence and power.”

In my opinion, a single election in which we support a candidate who embraces traditional “landlord” issues and nothing more will not carry us to victory. There are several reasons. First, only a small number of voters would identify with us as landlords and property owners. Second, even if we supported a mayoral candidate who did get an impressive number of votes, we would have to wait four years, until the next municipal election in 2013, to follow it up with another victory. On the other hand, if the party’s platform includes a broader package of issues, then it would have appeal in statewide elections. The next opportunity would come in 2010. A good showing for a state office will have much greater impact than in a city election, even the city of Minneapolis.”

So I had my sights set on the 2010 election for state offices even more than on those in Minneapolis. The only way to win a clear victory and achieve results that could not be misinterpreted would be to establish a new political party and do well in that election. Doing well meant gaining major-party status for the new party. It meant that at least one of the party’s candidates would receive five percent or more of the vote for a statewide office. A new party that had achieved such status would draw attention to its platform or core beliefs.

In my view, the attitude toward gender and racial identity is an important element in the current political divide. The modern Democratic Party was shaped by the Civil Rights movement. The basic model was that of oppressed minorities - initially blacks, but then other groups of people - struggling for “equality” in a largely white- and male-dominated society. Those minorities voted for Democrats; the rest of the population, for Republicans. The Republican Party, on the other hand, did a dance of courting white and male voters, but not too openly. And now we have the first African American, or at least racially mixed, President in Barack Obama. There has been a submerged rage among whites, evidenced at Tea Party rallies and elsewhere.

Everyone, Democrat as well as Republican, has been afraid to talk of race because the public understandings and relationships were so dishonest. Only a few racial zealots - mainly white - who railed against “institutional racism”, or the essential depravity of the white race, dared speak on the subject. Clearly there was room in the political discourse for another, more positive view. Whites who were proud of their race or, at least, who refused to be intimidated by the subject deserved some representation. They deserved a sense of dignity, even if they were white. Such a message, I thought, might have broader appeal than, say, the fight against inspections abuse, which was primarily an issue in local politics. The name, “New Dignity Party”, fit this set of concerns.

creating the party

How does one go about creating such a party. The first step is easy. Just register “New Dignity Party” as a non-profit corporation with Minnesota’s Secretary of State. The requirement is to fill out a one-page form and pay a $70.00 filing fee. The form requires that one give the corporation a name - “New Dignity Party” - and disclose a “registered office address of the corporation - my own home address - and, finally, list the incorporators, including contact information. Only one incorporator was required - in this case, myself.

After filling out this form, writing a check, and putting everything in the mail, I was off to Avon, Minnesota, to attend Garrison Keillor’s July 4th broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion.” New Dignity Party was born on the fourth of July - off to a good start.

Creating the party was, of course, the easy part. State statute requires political parties to hold annual conventions, elect officers, fill out certain paperwork, and the like. More substantially, a political party should run candidates for public office. The real goal should be to run candidates who win. There was an election coming up immediately in Minneapolis.

filing for office

The filing fee for Minneapolis city offices was $20. What a bargain this was! One could pay a mere $20 and have one’s name appear on perhaps 100,000 printed ballots in precincts around the city. This was an inexpensive way to put the name, “New Dignity Party”, in front of Minneapolis voters as a prelude to running candidates in a statewide election. Furthermore, Minneapolis city elections would be using a new method called “Ranked Choice Voting” (or instant runoff voting) for the first time this year. That innovation was sure to attract attention as well.

I could file myself for a city office, but it would be better if I could find others who would also run under the label of “New Dignity Party”. If voters could see that there were several people running, they would suppose that there was a real party here and not just a single person using that name.

I sent inquiries to MPRAC members asking if anyone else wanted to run for city office. In the course of a telephone conversation, Jim Swartwood said he would. The Board of Estimate and Taxation, which helped to set property-tax levies, was something that he could relate to since he paid a huge amount of property taxes on his various rental properties. John Butler, another MPRAC member, also agreed to run. The Minneapolis Park Board interested him. I would run for mayor once again.

As previously stated, I went down to Minneapolis city hall to file for mayor on Monday, July 20th, along with John Butler, who filed for a Park Board at large position. Jim Swartwood filed for Board of Estimate and Taxation on July 21st, the last day of the filing period. We each paid our $20 fee. It was here, however, that I learned that one of my principal assumptions was incorrect.

The reason for having three New Dignity Party candidates was that city voters would see three names on the ballot with that party designation. The filing clerk now told Butler and me that only candidates for mayor and City Council could have party designations. Candidates for the Park Board and Board of Estimate and Taxation ran nonpartisan campaigns. Therefore, my name alone would be associated with New Dignity Party. The reinforcing effect of seeing three similar party names on the ballot was thus nullified. However, candidates for all city offices were allowed to indicate a web site. Butler’s and mine were listed as NewDignityParty.org. Jim Swartwood left that space blank on the filing form.

A new political party with candidates | left to right: July 4th performance of "A Prairie Home Companion" | map of Minneapolis wards | John Butler | Jim Swartwood

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