State Parties Consider Drafting Requirements for Candidates

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(Host) The leadership of Vermont’s Progressive Party says it hopes to work with Republican officials this winter to implement some controls on who can run in a party’s primary election. The Progressives also have a short-term solution to the deal with a primary issue they face this year.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) Both the Progressives and the Republicans are unhappy that individuals who share few of the parties’ principles are running for office this year in the primary election.

For the second election in a row, several members of the Liberty Union party have filed to run in uncontested statewide races in the Progressive primary. Republicans are concerned that a person who considers himself a socialist is running for the GOP U.S. Senate nomination.

The chair of the Progressive Party, Martha Abbott says her group deliberately chose to run only one statewide candidate this year, lieutenant governor hopeful Steve Hingtgen, because they want to concentrate on this race and 11 legislative contests across the state. So to thwart the Liberty Union effort, Abbott says she’s mailing out a letter to the 3,000 members of the Progressive Party in Vermont urging them to write-in a slate of candidates in the races that the Liberty Union has entered. If the write-in candidate wins, Abbott says they’ll decline the nomination causing it to be vacant, which is what the Progressives originally wanted:

(Abbott) “The general idea is to clear our slate, which means that, for instance, we’re asking people to write Bernie Sanders in for Representative. Now as we all know, Bernie always runs as an independent, he always has. And so if he gets more write-in votes than the Liberty Union candidate then he will decline so that he can run as an independent. And then there will not be a Progressive candidate running against him as a Progressive.”

(Kinzel) State Republicans says it’s likely that they’ll ask the Legislature to change Vermont’s election law to require a candidate to receive at least 10 percent of the vote at a state convention in order to qualify for the primary ballot. A number of states, including Massachusetts use a similar system. Abbott wants to talk with GOP officials about this concept.

(Abbott) “I think it would be very helpful to have a change in the laws so that a party can have some control over, or a threshold of some sort, over who enters their process. I don’t have the answer. I’d be interested in hearing what the Republicans are proposing or what anyone else might propose.”

(Kinzel) While it’s likely that the Republicans will ask lawmakers to support their plan, they say recent court rulings make it clear that political parties can make sweeping changes to the primary election system without legislative approval.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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