Charlie Naef, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Colgate University
Charlie Naef, Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Colgate University

Reform Party Endorsement Does not Signify Bipartisan Support

By Charlie Naef

In a press release on his candidacy for Madison County judge, Nelson Town Justice Patrick O’Sullivan said he was “honored and humbled to receive the support of the Reform Party.”

In a recent letter to the editor, a supporter cited the endorsements by the Republican, Independence and Reform parties as “the kind of bipartisan support we need in our next county court judge.”

As a retired professor of political science I was curious about the reappearance of the Reform Party that was formed by Ross Perot for his second presidential bid in 1996. The Madison County Board of Elections told me that in addition to O’Sullivan, 21 Republican candidates for local office received the Reform Party endorsement.

Although the Reform Party does not have any enrolled voters in Madison County, it has ballot status in New York state until 2018. Formed in 2014 by Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorini as the Stop the Common Core Party, now renamed Reform Party, it received more than 50,000 votes in the last gubernatorial elections.

O’Sullivan and the other Republican candidates will have a separate Reform Party ballot line with a broomstick symbol. This is not the first time that the generic Reform Party name has been appropriated by candidates for their own partisan purpose. Pat Buchanan launched his candidacy for President in 2000 with Reform Party support. Ralph Nader did the same in 2004.

Over the next 10 years, the Reform Party faded into insignificance but retained its status as a national party that is now based in Texas. Its endorsement has been available to any candidate in the United States, but during the last few years only three municipal level candidates were elected with the Reform Party label.

This will change dramatically in this election with an estimated 2000 Republican candidates statewide appearing on a Reform Party ballot line. To be a Republican candidate with a Reform Party endorsement does not signify bipartisan support.

Charlie Naef of Hamilton is Professor of Political Science Emeritus, Colgate University. This piece is based on his original research on the national and New York state Reform Party and on information obtained from the Madison County Board of Elections.

By martha

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