Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Aversion to Trump and Clinton Give Third Parties High Hopes for Reaching 'Major' Status in Minnesota

Newspaper article MinnPost.com

Aversion to Trump and Clinton Give Third Parties High Hopes for Reaching 'Major' Status in Minnesota

Article excerpt

The Green Party delivered petitions containing 6,000 signatures supporting Jill Stein for president to Minnesota's Secretary of State's office on Monday afternoon -- two days before she stopped in the Twin Cities for a campaign event -- a reminder that this year's election is about more than Democrats and Republicans.

Given the high negatives of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, three parties -- Green, Libertarian and Independence -- have high hopes of winning major party status in Minnesota, a hurdle that isn't that difficult to clear and one that carries substantial rewards.

If the candidate of a party can achieve 5 percent of the vote in a statewide race, the party is considered "major," which means automatic access to the ballot in future elections as opposed to the grind of going through a petition process. It also means access to public funding.

It was just two years ago that the Independence Party lost its 20- year grip on major status when, for a second successive election, none of its statewide candidates hit the 5 percent mark. IP secretary of state candidate Bob Helland won 4.9 percent of the vote, falling about 1,300 votes short of keeping the IP in the ranks of Minnesota's major parties.

"It's been a hard pill to swallow," admitted Phil Fuehrer, the party's current leader. "But we're still here."

In the wake of the loss of major status, IP leaders decided to try to "regroup." The initial thought was that the IP label should be built from the ground up, going after local, county and some state offices. "But we discovered that doesn't work in a presidential election year," Fuehrer said.

Virtually all voter attention, he said, is on the presidential candidates. You've got to have a horse in the big race if you want people to be talking about local candidates.

So, when earlier this month Evan McMullin, a former CIA agent and the policy director for the U.S. House Republican caucus, announced he was running for president, IPs in Minnesota were quick to endorse him. "We're hoping we can get him to the State Fair," Fuehrer said.

Fuehrer believes -- at least publicly -- that the IPs still have a 3 percent base in the state and have the time to find another 2 percent from among Minnesotans who rejected Clinton and Trump during party caucuses. …

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