Falchuk wins bid to establish a state independent party
Evan Falchuk might have lost his bid for the corner office, but the independent candidate for Massachusetts governor still walked away from Election Night a winner.
That’s because in addition to running for governor, Falchuk was campaigning to make official his United Independent Party, something that required 3 percent of the vote. He earned 3.3 percent.
“In this election, there’s two people who are finishing it with something and I’m one of them,” he said in an interview on Wednesday.
Republican Governor-elect Charlie Baker is the other.
Baker beat Democratic rival Martha Coakley by 40,000 votes, winning the governor’s race in a razor-thin victory — 48 to 47 percent — that wasn’t declared until early Wednesday morning.
In addition to Falchuk, two other independent candidates also ran for governor — conservative pastor Scott Lively and venture capitalist Jeff McCormick. Both received just 1 percent of the vote, and neither sought to establish a political party.
Falchuk captured 71,144 total votes, with his strongest showing in Western Massachusetts, particularly the Springfield area where voters often feel ignored by Beacon Hill.
Globe pollster John Della Volpe postulated that Falchuk’s “outsider independent message might work better in that part of the state.”
But while Falchuk’s vote tally was far greater than the difference between Coakley and Baker, analysts were reluctant to call him a spoiler.
“In terms of taking votes from Baker or Coakley, I don’t think you can really say either way,” Della Volpe said.
All three independent candidates earned more votes in the towns that Baker won, compared to those that Coakley won, Steve Koczela, president of MassINC Polling Group noted. “So,” he said, “it’s difficult to argue that Coakley was done in by the presence of the independent candidates on the ballot.”
Now, as Baker begins the process of transitioning to leader of the Commonwealth, Falchuk begins the process of leading the United Independent Party, which hopes to bridge the left-right divide and restore cynical voters’ faith in government.
“This is what I’ve dedicated myself to, so I really want to see this through,” said Falchuk, a 44-year-old entrepreneur who invested more than $1.7 million of his own money in the campaign. “I want to continue building it. I’m not planning to go back to what I was doing. This is really what I believe in.”
Falchuk served on the executive leadership team at Best Doctors Inc., a global health care company based in Boston that provides patients with second opinions, for more than a decade.
In 2013, he became a full-time candidate and political crusader after becoming disheartened with the political process during the 2012 election cycle, a time when, he said, politicians and candidates spoke in substance-free sound bites. But in Massachusetts there are steps one must take to create — and keep — 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.
Tuesday’s election christened two political parties — the United Independent Party and the Green-Rainbow Party, which has alternately had and lost its status over the years.
Three candidates from the Green-Rainbow Party — Ian Jackson for treasurer, MK Merelice for auditor, and Danny Factor for secretary of state — each earned about 4 percent of the vote in their respective races, a total of 236,376.
Among the benefits: a greater ability to raise campaign money in the future.
“Winning ballot status ends the repressive fund-raising restrictions that were forbidding our party and all its chapters from spending more than $500 statewide in aggregate to support any one candidate,” John Andrews, cochairman of the Green-Rainbow Party, said in a statement on Wednesday. “That was an average of only $1.42 per candidate per town.”
When a group has a “political designation,” it is treated by state law as a political action committee and subject to the same campaign finance restrictions, according to Jason Tait, spokesman for the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Starting Jan. 1, individuals can donate $1,000 to a candidate or a PAC, but $5,000 to a state party, he said.
Being an official political party also means they can hold primaries in 2016 or during any special election held before then. But to keep their status, each political party must again earn 3 percent of the vote in a statewide election or have at least 1 percent of voters registered — about 43,000 people – with the party.
“It’s yet another example of how the system is set up in a way that says ‘You can try to organize yourself politically, but we’re going to set it up in a way that’s extremely difficult to do it in a lasting way,’ ” Falchuk said.
But Falchuk said he’s confident his party will persevere. He has already received about 20 queries from people interested in running for office as a United Independent Party candidate, he said.
“We’re looking forward to being able to field a really terrific slate of candidates in those 2016 races,” he said.