Evan Smith: return of ‘Republican’ name doesn’t explain strange party preferences

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

By Evan Smith
ShorelineAreaNews Politics Writer

I wrote last week that only five candidates around Washington are listing their party preferences as “G.O.P.“ or “Grand Old Party” rather than “Republican,” compared to 25 two years ago.

Then, a reader pointed out that Stan Lippman, a Republican precinct committee officer in Lake Forest Park, has filed for State representative with a Democratic Party preference.

The reader noted that Lippman has run for various offices in the past with Libertarian, Reform Party, Natural Law Party and non-partisan labels.

With all of these party labels, Lippman has never been elected to anything other than PCO.

The reader also notes, that Washington allows candidates to call themselves anything they want. Indeed, candidates around the state have filed with preferences that include “Lower Taxes Party,” “Bull Moose Party.” “Neither Party,” “Reluctantly Republican Party,“ “Senior Side Party,” “Independent Party” and “Tea Party.” Last year, a candidate for a county office in Southwest Washington filed as preferring the “Grange Party.”

Of course, there is no “Lower Taxes Party”; the “Bull Moose” was a nickname for those who supported Theodore Roosevelt in 1912; and the Grange is a nonpartisan farm-related organization.

The “Senior Side Party” candidate in Snohomish County tells me that the name is a statement of his platform. that we all should be on seniors’ side because we all are aging.

The party-preference scheme came out of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that the top-two primary didn’t necessarily take away political parties’ right to control their names but that the State had to design the system so a candidate couldn’t usurp a party’s name. Hence, State Rep. Ruth Kagi doesn’t file as a Democrat, as she did under the partisan primary, but as “prefers Democratic Party.” Unfortunately, someone could also file as “prefers Birthday Party.”

To end this nonsense, Washington Secretary of State Sam Reed has proposed limiting party preferences to parties who gain recognition by submitting petitions with at least 25 signatures. This would allow candidates to list their party preferences as Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party, Constitution Party, Socialist Workers Party or Socialism and Liberation Party, or they could mark “no party preference.” But they couldn’t list their preferences as “G.O.P.” “Independent Party” or “Salmon Yoga Party” unless a petition brought recognition to those names.

Candidates who list their preferences as “Neither Party” or “Independent Party” would have to use “No Party Preference.”

The bill failed in the legislature. Lake Forest Park Democrat Darlene Fairley, chairwoman of the State Senate government operations committee, said Monday that opposition came from opponents of the top-two primary, from people who thought it was a limit on freedom and from people who want to wait before making changes to the top-two primary.

Reed’s proposal wouldn’t prevent Lippman from being both a Republican PCO and a Democratic candidate for the Legislature.

California will deal with the problem in a different way. The ballot initiative that California voters passed last month established a top-two primary but left the State’s party-registration system in place. Candidates will have no party identification on the ballot, but public records, including the secretary of state’s web site, will show whether they are registered with a political party or as “decline to state.”

Don’t expect Washington to follow California’s lead. Washington voters would object even more than they did to having to vote on only one of party's primary ballot, and starting a registration system would be expensive. So, I see no way that Washington state will prevent Lippman from running as a Republican one year, a Democrat another year, and a Libertarian another year.


Krist Novoselic July 18, 2010 at 9:39 AM  

These “funny names” that the state refers to as a “Party” on the ballot are no such thing as an organization. It takes a lot of work to put together and maintain a political association. The irony is that if there were actually a viable new / third party in our state, any interloper / joker could “prefer” that party on the ballot. It’s so odd that the US Supreme Court didn’t strike down I-872 on its face. But the ruling had many nuances and that’s why the “prefers party” associational aspects of the Top-Two will be on trial this November.

I say let the Democrats and Republicans nominate their own candidates however they see fit. Let them nominate losers and hacks, and you’ll see how voters will choose independents or even real new / third party people in the Top Two run off.

Anonymous,  July 21, 2010 at 7:56 AM  

And what does this have to do with Shoreline area news, Evan Smith? When did national political party semantics become the news about the Shoreline area, a Seattle suburb?

Evan Smith,  July 27, 2010 at 4:27 PM  

This isn't about "national" political parties. It is a follow up to my previous piece about how candidates here and around the State avoided the Republican name two years ago but aren't doing it this year.

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