Most people running for governor just want to be governor. Evan Falchuk has a bigger dream: a brand-new political party that would bridge the left-right divide and restore cynical voters’ faith in government.
His effort might be unusual, but he actually considers himself a pretty typical Massachusetts voter. He casts ballots — and contributes money — on both sides of the political divide, depending on the candidate and the issue. One caveat: Falchuk had been registered as a Republican.
“I was never an activist in any way,” he said. “I was certainly very interested in it.”
But he became disheartened during the 2012 election cycle, a time when, he said, politicians and candidates spoke in substance-free sound bites.
“Everything had become so dumbed down. It was like watching a show,” Falchuk said. “In my mind, I’m like ‘Where is this heading? How is this possibly going to end well? How is this going to change?’ ”
The 44-year-old father of three turned his dissatisfaction with partisan politics into motivation, deciding not only to run for office but also to establish the United Independent Party.
“As a business person, when you see a market that’s not serving its customers, your instincts become: How do you address this problem?” says Falchuk, the former executive at Best Doctors Inc., a company offering second opinions on medical cases.
Falchuk hopes his new party will break through left-versus-right gridlock and put public interest ahead of political need. He says it will reengage those who feel shut out of the process and restore public confidence in government and politicians. So far, he has largely underwritten the effort himself. According to campaign finance reports, Falchuk has given his campaign about $695,000 since March 2013.
Out on the trail, the United Independent Party’s sales pitch is this: Everybody’s equal, everybody’s civil rights have to be protected, and the government has to spend money wisely.
The party, which supports abortion rights, calls for tax reform, increasing the minimum wage, and reducing administrative costs at public universities.
It wants to end “monopolistic hospital mergers” and create a moratorium on corporate tax breaks until these businesses give the government a guaranteed amount of money.
But there are steps one must take to create a political party in more than name only. First comes the “political designation,” which requires 50 registered voters to file a petition with the state saying they want to vote as part of the new organization. Then comes the “political party,” which requires a candidate affiliated with a political designation to receive at least 3 percent of the vote in a statewide race to qualify for official party status.
Including Falchuk’s group, Massachusetts has 26 political designations, which have long faced challenges getting on the ballot and into office. For example, none hit the 3 percent mark in 2012, so only two political parties will be on the ballot this election cycle — Democrats and Republicans.
Seated around the conference table in Falchuk’s campaign headquarters on Tremont Street overlooking the Common on a recent Tuesday are people who have already bought in, becoming part of the organization dedicated to getting Falchuk into office and making the United Independent Party official in Massachusetts.
‘As a business person, when you see a market that’s not serving its customers, your instincts become: How do you address this problem?’
Some, including Jen Beltz, his campaign manager, and Kyle Gill, the deputy field director, followed him from Best Doctors.
“Let’s jump right in,” Beltz says as the weekly meeting of senior staff begins.
They run through outreach — 18,000 electronic newsletters sent, only 50 marked spam. “We have another e-mail going out this week. It’ll focus on a petition to end the two-party lock on politics or something like that,” said Emily Demikat, his deputy campaign manager. “We’re still finalizing the language.”
They talk about speaking events, a Cape Verdean senior center in Brockton, the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Dorchester. They talk about interviews with a Brazilian radio station in Framingham, a Spanish-language radio in Haverhill, and conservative talk radio in Boston, Worcester, and Springfield.
They talk about collecting the necessary 10,000 signatures of registered voters to appear on the ballot. Independent candidates can’t begin collecting signatures until they name a lieutenant governor running mate, which Falchuk did in April, about two months after the other candidates.
“Where are we at now?” he asks.
“Just over 13,000 total, but not already vetted,” Beltz responds.
They are waiting for several municipalities to verify signatures that have been submitted. Until that happens, his campaign will continue collecting names, she says. (This week, they hit 17,000 and counting.)
“The last two weeks, we’ve hit over 6,000; both weeks we hit 3,000 plus,” says Taylor DiSantis, the field director. “Before that, our weekly high was 1,800.”
“That’s awesome!” Falchuk says, knocking on the table for emphasis.
“And the number of towns you’ve been hitting is remarkable,” says Demikat, referring to the 240 towns and cities campaign workers have been to.
“Only 111 to go,” quips Gill.Akilah Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @akjohnson1922.