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Politics

Florida's Small Parties Short on Candidates

June 15, 2010 - 6:00pm

Anger may be rising against the two-party system, but Florida's "third" parties have yet to convert it into candidates.

Though the state Department of Elections lists 30 minor parties as "active," only a tiny handful of them have candidates on the 2010 ballot. And some of those hopefuls aren't even running under their party's banner, opting instead to appear as write-ins or NPA (No Party Affiliation), as newly independent Gov. Charlie Crist is doing with his U.S. Senate bid.

One exception is the newly formed TEA Party, which placed nearly 20 candidates in state races -- including one in the commissioner of agriculture and consumer servces race and three in state Senate races -- before all filing periods ended Friday.

Florida has one of the nation's most accommodating laws for minor parties. Anyone can launch a political party, as long as they designate a chairman and treasurer, and file quarterly financial reports with the secretary of state's office. The state imposes no annual fees or minimum membership requirements.

As a result, Florida voters can choose from a plethora of parties ranging from the Prohibition Party to the Surfers Party -- and just about everything in between. The field is crowded by like-minded groups that have splintered. For example:

* There are three socialist parties: the Florida Socialist Workers Party, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, and the Socialist Party of Florida.

* There are two reform parties: The Reform Party and the American Reform Party.

* There are two libertarian parties: The Libertarian Party and the Progressive Libertarian Party.

* There's even a second Democratic party: the Independent Democratic Party.

* Two other parties have the word "independence" or "independent" in their names: the Independent Party and the Independence Party of Florida.

The Independent Party -- the largest minor party in the state, with 241,752 members -- is believed to benefit from voters who mistakenly think they are registering with no party.

Despite combined membership totaling 1.95 million (as of July 2008), Florida's minor parties are fielding fewer candidates this year.

"We would like to, but it takes a lot of effort," said Cara Campbell, chair of the Ecology Party. Ralph Nader ran for president on the Ecology Party ballot line in Florida in 2008.

"We won't have any candidates this year," said Dennis Bradley, founder and treasurer of the Veterans Party. Bradley ran for U.S. Senate in 2004, garnering 2.2 percent of the vote.

Money is a main impediment to third-party runs. The state sets candidate filing fees at 6 percent of the position's annual salary ifrunning under a party banner; 4 percent ifrunning NPA.

"There's no point in spending $10,000 when you can do it for free as a write-in," Bradley said.

Some parties simply have no intention of running candidates.

The American Reform Party, for example, has never sponsored a candidate since it broke off from Ross Perot's original Reform Party in 1999.

It's equally unlikely that the Party for Socialism and Liberation will be on the ballot anytime soon. Its total membership is two, according to secretary of state records.

On the flip side, Campbell of the Ecology Party cautions that outsiders could game the system and run on a party ballot line without the consent of the party itself.

Such surreptitious moves became legal when the Legislature stripped the requirement that candidates be formally approved by their intended political party.

"Anyone who registers in a minor party can run on that party. Some whack job who wants to undermine your party could do this. It's a lawsuit waiting to happen," Campbell said.

Following is a rundown on Florida's minor parties and, if applicable, their candidates. Membership numbers are from 2008 unless otherwise stated. (Find mailing addresses and contact information here.)

AMERICAN PARTY OF FLORIDA

Chairperson: Thomas Alan Macklin
104 members
Did not return phone calls.

AMERICAN PATRIOT PARTY

Chairperson: Robert Cekosky
Treasurer: Dale O'Brien
233 members
Did not return phone calls.

AMERICAN REFORM PARTY OF FLORIDA
Chairperson: Howard Johnson
267 members
Notable: "We want to reform the political system," Johnson says.

AMERICA'S INDEPENDENT PARTY OF FLORIDA

Chairman: Gregory Poulos
Treasurer: Franklin E. Shoemaker
Membership: "Fewer than 100," Poulos said.
Notable: Affiliate of national AIP. Alan Keyes was party's presidential candidate in 2008.

BRITISH REFORMED SECTARIAN PARTY

Chairperson: Thomas J. Kelly
39 members
Notable: Bans blacks and non-Christians from membership (see previous Sunshine State News story here). Kelly ran against state Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, in 2008.

THE CHRISTIAN PARTY
Chairperson: Nancy Grant
1,310 members
Notable: Anthony Knox running for governor.

CONSTITUTION PARTY OF FLORIDA
Chairperson: Dan Gonzales
Treasurer: Lois McLain
839 members
Notable: Bernie DeCastro running for U.S. Senate. Chuck Baldwin of Pensacola was national party's presidential candidate in 2008.

ECOLOGY PARTY OF FLORIDA

Chairperson: Cara Campbell
Treasurer: Gary Hecker
40 members
Notable: Presidential candidate Ralph Nader ran on the Ecology Party ballot line in 2008.

FAITH & PATIENCE PARTY

Chairperson: Geneva June Smith Huber
404 members
No answer at party's phone.

FAMILY VALUES PARTY

Chairperson: Tom Wells
443 members
Party phone line disconnected.

FLORIDA SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY

Chairperson: Ernest Mailhot
Treasurer: Bernard Senter
394 members
Notable: Roger Calero was the party's presidential candidate in 2008.

FLORIDA WHIG PARTY

Chairperson: Paul Truesdell
Treasurer: Julie Bolduc
Membership: "We have 230 members now," Truesdell said.
Notable: Craig Porter running in Congressional District 25, first Florida Whig to qualify since 1854. Douglas Shearer running for Marion County Commission. "Our party stresses principle before party, personality and profits," Truesdell says.

GREEN PARTY OF FLORIDA

Chair: Jayne King
Treasurer: Oliver Kofoid
5,734 members
Notable: Nicholas Ruiz is running as a write-in candidate in Congressional District 24. Anita Stewart is running NPA for Hillsborough County Soil & Water District, Seat 5.

INDEPENDENCE PARTY OF FLORIDA

Chairperson: Peter L. Allen
Treasurer: Shauna Ayers
Membership: "We have 73,000 now," Allen says.
Notable: Founded in 1999 by Allen, who is running for governor. He ran for Hillsborough County Commission in 1992 as a Democrat.

INDEPENDENT DEMOCRATS OF FLORIDA
Chairperson: Robert P. Kunst
Treasurer: Jeannine Ross
7,165 members
Notable: Kunst running NPA against U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fort Lauderdale. "She wants to be the new Nancy Pelosi," says Kunst, who founded the Independent Democrats in 2008.

INDEPENDENT PARTY OF FLORIDA
Chairperson: Ernest Wm. Bach
241,752 members
Notable: The party did not return phone calls, and e-mail sent to its address bounced back as undeliverable.

LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF FLORIDA
Chairperson: John Jude "JJ" McCurry
Treasurer: Jack Tanner
15,384 members
Notable: Andrew Snitker running for U.S. Senate. John Wayne Smith running for governor.
Two Libertarians -- Ellen Paul and Franklin Perez -- running in state House District 33.

MODERATE PARTY OF FLORIDA

Chairperson: David Rubenfeld
257 members
Party was not reachable.

OBJECTIVIST PARTY OF FLORIDA

Chairperson: William Mayo Stinson
Treasurer: Edward Henke
Membership: "About 100," Stinson says.
Notable: "We're very close to Libertarians and the Tea Party," Stinson says.

PARTY FOR SOCIALISM AND LIBERATION

Chairperson: Antonio Franco Rodriguez
Treasurer: John Peter Daly
2 members
Notable: Party did not return phone calls.

POSSIBILITY PARTY
Chairperson: Gonzalo Paternoster
Treasurer: Joi Paternoster
93 members
Notable: Party did not respond to e-mail.

PROGRESSIVE LIBERTARIAN PARTY
Chairperson: Michael J. Posner
95 members
Notable: "We're not running any candidates. We're more of an ideological party," Posner said.

PROHIBITION PARTY

Chairperson: William Bledsoe
53 members
Notable: National party was founded in 1869. Gene Amondson ran as its presidential candidate in 2008.

REAL FOOD PARTY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

Chairperson: James H. Carter
79 members
Notable: Carter running for agriculture commissioner.

REFORM PARTY
Chairperson: Dave Richardson
3,203 members
Did not return phone calls.

SOCIALIST PARTY OF FLORIDA
Chairperson: James Sanders
Treasurer: Marc Luzietti
584 members
Did not return phone calls.

SURFERS PARTY OF AMERICA

Chairperson: Steven Douglas VanZandt
Treasurer: Michele Lynn Palumbo
356 members
Notable: Based in Burlington, Vt., party supplied no phone contact or e-mail.

TEA PARTY

Chairperson: Frederic B. O'Neal
Membership: "300-plus," according to co-founder Doug Guetzloe.
Notable: Party running 3 congressional candidates (Peg Dunmire, CD8; Randy Wilkinson, CD12; Roly Arrojo, CD25) and nearly 20 legislative candidates plus a candidate for commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, Guetzloe said. Party has been sued by other state Tea Party organizations for co-opting the name.

TWELVE VISIONS PARTY OF FLORIDA
Chairperson: Michelle Anderson
No membership numbers available.
Party did not return phone calls.

UNITY08
Chairperson: Robert Bingham
Treasurer: Jane Rinard
93 members
Notable: Headquarters in Arlington, Va. No phone or e-mail contact available.

VETERANS PARTY OF AMERICA

Chairperson: Julieann Bradley
Treasurer: Dennis F. Bradley
983 members
Notable: "We have enough veterans in this state to elect candidates -- if they would just stick together." Dennis Bradley said.

--

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

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