Third-party candidate enters fray
Ryan Summerlin June 30, 2008
Colorado recognized its newest third party Monday when the Secretary of States office placed the Unity Partys candidate Bill Hammons on the November ballot for the states 2nd Congressional District race.Hammons, a 33-year-old Boulder restaurant worker, collected more than 1,200 voter signatures to earn the right to challenge Republican Scott Starin and a yet-to-be-determined Democratic candidate in the contest to replace U.S. Rep. Mark Udall as the congressional representative for Summit County and other portions of the mountains and Front Range.With the successful petition drive, Hammons Unity Party becomes an official qualified political organization under Colorado election law, and voters now can register as Unity Party members.Founded in 2004 by Hammons and several others who had been involved with Wesley Clarks presidential bid, the Unity Party defines itself as centrist. Its platforms include an emphasis on balancing the federal budget, support for a carbon tax and advocacy of a tax structure that would eliminate all taxes on the first $30,000 of income and impose a flat 30-percent tax on all additional earnings.Although his candidacy is serious, Hammons sees establishment of his party in Colorado as the premier issue. This is a huge step in the state of Colorado, he said. The two-party system is not addressing a lot of issues we need fresh blood and a new perspective.Essentially self-funded, Hammons will have a tough row to hoe in one of the nations most expensive congressional races. So far, Boulder entrepreneur Jared Polis has contributed nearly $4 million to his own campaign to win the August Democratic primary, and both his fellow Democratic contenders former state Senate President Joan Fitz-Gerald and conservationist Will Shafroth have proved capable of raising millions as they devote themselves full time to the campaign trail.In contrast, Hammons plans to keep his restaurant job and recently announced hed sold his personal oil and gas interest and contributed a whopping $10,000 to his campaign. (I) remain proud to be a working man, he said.Although it reports a presence in 23 states, Hammons is the Unity Partys only serious 2008 candidate. And according to Hammons, no other third party is fielding a non-presidential candidate in the Colorado this year. Its easier to get on the ballot as a presidential candidate, he said, referring to the fact that it only takes $500 to be included on the presidential ballot in Colorado, while candidates for other offices must file petitions.Third parties face an uphill battle, but Colorado Mountain College political science instructor and former state Rep. Gary Lindstrom thinks the time is ripe for their formation.We might see more of this in the future, he said. People are really getting sick and tired especially this year, with the super-conservatives left out and the super-liberals left out.Most industrialized democracies have five or 10 viable parties, he explained. And ruling parties in those countries typically have to form coalitions with other groups to be able to govern. The two-party system in the U.S. is more susceptible to excluding a variety of voices, thereby effectively disenfranchising segments of the voting population, he added.I think our system of government needs to be revamped, Lindstrom asserted, when asked about the viability of third parties.In this election, I dont think they can stand a chance, he added. But I give them my best wishes.Harriet Hamilton can be reached at (970) 668-4651, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.