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welcome to the party of the state, Utah should be quite liberal and quite a home for Democrats,” Davis said. “And yet it isn’t, largely from the influence of religion, which helps create an odd mix of liberal on some issues and conservative on others. … There seemed to me to be a huge gap in the middle, particularly among Utahans.” The founding members of the party decided to keep their platform short. They listed their ideals on one page. “The positions are really more like principle positions rather than specific issue positions for the most part,” Davis said. “We are allowing our candidates within these parameters to make their own choices. We wanted a party with broad appeal that would not bind people the way other political parties have done in the last 40-50 years.” The legal process for certifying a party in Utah requires 2,000 registered voters to sign a petition, which United Utah submitted to the state in May 2017. The party ran their first candidate, Jim Bennett, in the 3rd Congressional district special election soon after. In a special election held on Nov. 7, Bennett received 9 percent of the popular vote. The party ran 18 candidates in 2018. Utah United is far from the only party to challenge the two-party system. As of May 2018, there were 32 distinct ballot-qualified political parties and 230 state-level parties in the nation. The most successful state-level third party in the U.S. is the Vermont Progressive Party, holding the third most seats in state and national offices in the country—after Republicans and Democrats. Progressives have held seats in

the Vermont Legislature since 1991 when they were still a party coalition. They became a statewide party in 2000. Vermont state Sen. Christopher Pearson, a Progressive Party member, said being part of a third-party allows him to influence the values of the major parties from the outside. “I was first elected as only a progressive,” Pearson said. “It was later that the Democrats started supporting me. I think you need both to successfully pull the public policy in the direction of progressive values—you need

and the Democratic leadership would say ‘I wish you wouldn’t do that,’ and I would say, ‘well I’m going to do that’ and every couple years more and more Democrats would join us in that effort. Because I was independent, there wasn’t much of a hold on me and my progressive colleagues to placate leadership. We didn’t mind challenging them. That allows you to gradually make change.” One of the challenges third-party candidates face is maintaining visibility, particularly in presidential election years.

“The independence is the most important in the Legislature. … Because I was independent, there wasn’t much of a hold on me and my progressive colleagues to placate leadership. We didn’t mind challenging them. That allows you to gradually make change.” » Vermont state Sen. Christopher Pearson people outside of the Democratic Party and inside. Our ability to act as an independent party has put a lot of pressure on the Democratic party to move in our direction.” Pearson said being in a nonmajor party also offers him a measure of freedom within the Legislature. “There are many times when I would offer an amendment, let’s say to not cut food stamps but instead to tax the wealthiest Vermonters a little bit more. I would offer that amendment

“Generally left-of-center Democrats usually see a little boost if they live in a blue state in a presidential year, progressive party candidates have to struggle to make sure our party identity doesn’t get subsumed when people vote a straight party ticket in a presidential year,” Pearson said. “Basically the Democratic and Republican parties are well understood entities throughout the country and anybody who is running outside of those parties has a lot of ground to make up to get a basic voter familiarity with what our parties are about.”

Political Party vs. Party Committee PARTY COMMITTEE

STATE PARTY COMMITTEE

An association, committee or organization that nominates or selects a candidate for election to office whose name appears on the election ballot as the candidate of the organization.

A political committee that represents a political party and is part of the official party structure at the national, state or local level.

A committee which, by virtue of the bylaws of a political party or the operation of state law is part of the official party structure and is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the party at the state level, including an entity that is directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled by that organization, as determined by the Federal Election Commission. Source: Federal Election Commission

ISSUE 5 | CAPITOL IDEAS

POLITICAL PARTY

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Capitol Ideas | Issue 5  
Capitol Ideas | Issue 5