If you follow news stories on the Empire Page, you are aware that people involved in the tea party movement in NYS are considering creating a new political party.
It makes sense. New York’s election laws provide a strong incentive for a disaffected group to form a new party rather than join an existing one. It is not easy, but getting on the ballot can be accomplished with a decent-sized organization.
Here’s the relevant section of the state’s election law for statewide candidates.
(§ 6-142. Independent nominations; number of signatures.
1. An independent nominating petition for candidates to be voted for by all the voters of the state must be signed by at least fifteen thousand voters, of whom at least one hundred shall reside in each of one-half of the congressional districts of the State.
The NYS Tea Party would presumably invite candidates from other parties to apply for their endorsement. If they followed the path of the ideologically-pure Green and Libertarian parties which do not cross-endorse, they would be consigning themselves to irrelevance which I doubt it their intent.
This being their first year playing the electoral game, candidates who are afraid of being put on the spot concerning specific issues will probably be able to ignore the Tea Party. This could result in the Tea Party being forced to run their own candidates in most Assembly, Senate and Congressional districts.
If so they’ll find out that it’s one thing to protest the policies of those currently in office, it’s another thing to mount an effective election campaign. To do so takes a willing candidate who doesn’t have any hidden baggage, such as a girl friend in Argentina or a Wall Street bonus check in her back pocket. It also requires legal help to prepare and oversee a petition drive, dozens of people to circulate petitions and later campaign literature, and some a few thousand dollars if just to pay the lawyers and print a brochure. All this effort of course has to be done despite the fact that your candidates will not win any elections and you are merely establishing your party as a force for future elections.
However, if the Tea Party is able to turn out several thousand votes in a number of Assembly and Senate districts whether for their own candidates or on behalf of those running on other lines, and if they can get 50,000 votes for a gubernatorial candidate, they will have achieved status on par with the Conservative, Independence and Working Families Party whose support is essential for victory in many districts across the state. (See my “2010: The Battle for the NYS Senate” for examples.)
One interesting aspect of all this will be the impact of this nascent political party on the existing third parties. They are unlikely to have any impact of course on the Working Families Party, but they could attract members and voters who are disaffected with the Conservative and Independent parties. For example, Warren Redlich, whose politics line up with the Tea Party, is spurning the Conservative Party endorsement because they had the temerity in the past to endorse candidates like George Pataki and Rick Lazio. (See my interview with Redlich in the Improving New York section of the Empire Page.)
The one group that perhaps ought to be considering forming a political party is Unshackle Upstate. One would think that they would be more likely than the Tea Party folks to be able to find candidates with statuture in their communities and money to spend on campaigns. Seeking to unite the small business community with community interests outside New York City, an Unshackle party might also be able to put pressure on the Democratic Party counteracting the pro-union Working Families Party.
This could get interesting.