Third party’s over

The preference for moneyed interests is baked into every part of our election system.

To take just one tiny example, look at the candidate statements that appear in the ballot from the California secretary of state every election.

The state charges candidates for statewide office $25 a word for those statements. This year, Peace and Freedom Party candidate C.T. Weber, duly nominated by his party to run for lieutenant governor, could only afford 30 words, which read:

“Has California’s budget deficit been fixed? No. Are you upset, angry, frustrated? Me too. Restore social services. Stop scapegoating public workers. Let the super rich pay their fair share.”

The super-rich candidates in this race, Gavin Newsom and Abel Maldonado, are each running statements 10 times as long, but neither really has much more to say.

Bites brings this up because it might be the last time folks like C.T. Weber appear on your California general-election ballot at all, thanks to Proposition 14, which voters approved back in June. The new law, which kicks in next year, only allows the top two vote getters in the June primary election—regardless of party affiliation—to advance to the general election in the fall.

A 70-year-old retired analyst from the California Highway Patrol, Weber is one of a surprisingly strong Sacramento contingent of Peace and Freedom Party candidates running for statewide office this year, including Debra Reiger, who’s up for state treasurer; Dina Padilla, for insurance commissioner; and Karen Martinez, running for controller.

Despite the fact they’ve been around more than 40 years, Bites doesn’t know all that much about the Peace and Freedom Party. Hell, Bites doesn’t know much about the lieutenant governor gig, either.

But it turns out that “guv lite” holds powerful positions on all sorts of political bodies, like the State Lands Commission, the UC Board of Regents and the CSU Board of Trustees.

If elected, Weber says he’d use those positions to oppose offshore oil drilling and push for an oil-severance tax, and “drastically slash fees for college students.”

The party explicitly stands for socialism, but specifically for investing in public-works projects to create jobs, single-payer health care and eliminating the two-thirds requirement to raise taxes or pass a budget.

In other words, things that a plurality of Californians believe in, but which aren’t well-represented in our winner-take-all corporate-sponsored election system.

Bites does think some positive things might flow from Prop. 14. The best-case scenario is that, in some places, party will take a back seat to real debates about policy (see “Top of the 9th,” SN&R Bites, June 17). But that’s probably wishful thinking.

It is clear that the “top two” provisions of Prop. 14 will mean that we’ll almost never see a Green or a Libertarian or Peace and Freedom candidate on the November ballot again.

It should be noted that the law doesn’t prohibit third parties from fielding candidates for president in November. But because those parties depend on November votes for statewide office to qualify for the ballot, including the primary ballot, third parties may soon be purged from our election system altogether.

Sure, there is the possibility of a legal challenge. Weber explained his party might join other groups in bringing a lawsuit against Prop. 14, because “My right to choose has been reduced from four or five or six candidates to just two candidates.” But a similar election law in Washington state has survived such legal challenges. If these third parties have to go away, Bites just wishes the Dems and Republicans would go with them.