Research assistance by Kevin Smith and Paige Kennery
Chances are few DigBoston readers pulled for Republican Charlie Baker to be the next governor. It’s OK; this isn’t as bad of a development as Democratic sycophants are saying. Someone needs to throw a haymaker at Beacon Hill, and there are plenty of other results from last week to be mortified or excited about. Whether you participated or not, the good news is that there may be a chance of douching the State House free of at least some of its poisonous elements.
As the Dig noted in our coverage of the burgeoning United Independent Party, with the newcomers’ candidate for Massachusetts governor, Evan Falchuk, taking more than 3 percent of the statewide vote on Tuesday (he clocked 3.3 percent), the UIP will move up in the food chain from being a mere political designation—of which there are currently 26 in the commonwealth including Falchuk’s UIP, the Pizza Party, the Prohibition Party, the Reform Party, and so on. Designation status is easy to attain: All you need are 50 friends willing to file a form with the Secretary of the Commonwealth stating their intent to join the Ping Pong Patriot Party, or whatever. Full party status, on the other hand, means you can raise money like the big kids, and that you have the same guaranteed ballot access as well. According to the Falchuk camp: “The milestone means that the United Independent Party will have equal election and fundraising laws and requirements.”
These ain’t the first signs of independent gusto around here. Going way back, Hancock, Cushing, Bowdoin, and Samuel Adams ruled the post-constitutional commonwealth with no party affiliation for nearly two decades before Governor Increase Sumner, balling-ass name and all, arrived with the Federalists. America’s first political scheme machine, the Federalists then spurred early partisan shitfights with the Democrat-Republicans, better known as the “Jeffersonian Republicans,” which gave us the historically shamed Elbridge Gerry, whose complicity in fixing districts to favor his allies led to a newspaper columnist coining the term “gerrymander,” which is still commonly used.
There were also the Know-Nothings, the National Republicans, and of course the Whigs, who formed to spite Jacksonian Democrats. Gubernatorially speaking, jumping forward about 150 years, in 1982 a local businessman named Frank Rich (not the New York magazine columnist) took 3.08 percent of the vote to the 59 percent won by Michael Dukakis, while in 1990 Leonard Umina of the Independent High Tech party grabbed 2.68 percent against the Republican winner Bill Weld. A high-tech marketing executive, Umina had wild ideas that didn’t quite register; at one point he told the Harvard Crimson he wanted to make “information about what our government is doing with our money easily accessible” so we can “make our politicians accountable.” Crazy stuff.
Other noteworthy performances include Libertarian Dean Cook (not to be confused with comedian Dane Cook), who wrestled 1.69 percent in 1998, then more recent standouts like minimart-mogul-turned-horror-show Christy Mihos in 2006 (6.97 percent), Green Party stalwart Jill Stein in 2002 (3.49 percent), and Grace Ross under the Green-Rainbow flag in 2006 (1.95 percent). Stein ran again in 2010, but was outshined by another independent, former State Treasurer Tim Cahill, who earned 8.03 percent of the vote. (The results were impressive enough for future Democratic candidate for governor and Attorney General Martha Coakley to hobble Cahill with a failed lawsuit impugning his 2010 campaign, while the Greens were moved enough by Stein’s performance to run her against Mitt Romney and Barack Obama for President of the United States in 2012.)
Whether it’s Cahill, Ross, Stein, or Falchuk, there are an increasing number of signs that Mass is hungry for unchained representation. More than half of voters—about two-and-a-quarter million residents—are registered as “unenrolled,” while even Scott Lively, a Bible-thumper who actually authored a book called The Pink Swastika attacking claims that gays were harmed by Nazis, received nearly 20,000 votes (to Falchuk’s roughly 71,000) this past election (that kind of scares the shit out of us, too, but just go with it).
As Falchuk likes to say, the game is rigged against those who stand out of line. Mass residents who enroll under a political designation, for example, are disenfranchised in state and presidential primaries, even though “unenrolled” participants can choose between a red or blue ballot. That said, such hurdles didn’t stop the UIP, or the Green-Rainbow party either. The latter also graduated from designation to official party last week, as they have before, in their case as the result of having three separate candidates for lower statewide offices garner three percent in their respective elections.
Looking ahead, both the Green-Rainbows and United Independents face the daunting task of having to register 43,000 people, at least 3 percent of voters, by 2016 in order to maintain party status and run candidates statewide. It’s a gauntlet erected by Republicans and Democrats, and it’s defeated more fledgling parties than history has probably recorded, their hopes dashed years ago along with any chance of fair governance. To see if the obscure third wheels had tips or grease left to give, we called all the numbers listed with Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin for the current designations: Six weren’t in service, four brought us to random answering machines, and one gave us the voicemail of a guy named Bob.
I’m not sure if the guy’s registered, but Bob might be a good guy to start with.
A Queens, NY native who came to New England in 2004 to earn his MA in journalism at Boston University, Chris Faraone is the editor and co-publisher of DigBoston and a co-founder of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. He has published several books including 99 Nights with the 99 Percent, and has written liner notes for hip-hop gods including Cypress Hill, Pete Rock, Nas, and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.